Tehran: Iran's Intelligence Ministry said on Saturday it has arrested over 30 people allegedly linked to a spy network run by the CIA.

The announcement on the alleged spy ring gave no further details and appears part of Iran's frequent claims of Western and Israel interference. But the Intelligence Ministry also is at the heart of a messy political showdown and could seek to boost its credentials as a front-line defender of the country.

Last month, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad forced out the Intelligence Minister as part of government infighting, but the minister was immediately reinstated by Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

It touched off a high-level battle that included Ahmadinejad boycotting Cabinet sessions and Khamenei's loyalists warning Ahmadinejad he was on dangerous ground by challenging the ruling system.

Hard-liners have since launched pinpoint strikes aimed at weakening Ahmadinejad and his allies before next year's Parliament elections and the vote for his successor in 2013. The latest apparent blow was reported Saturday after a court ordered a four-year political ban on one of his vice presidents. The alleged spy ring could add another level of political intrigue.

In a statement read on state TV, Iran's secret service said its agents uncovered activities of a CIA-run espionage network that sought to recruit Iranian spies through US diplomatic missions that include the United Arab Emirates, Malaysia and Turkey.

The report didn't provide further details, but claimed the recruits had been asked to spy on Iran's research institutes, universities, nuclear programs and other sites. Iranian authorities occasionally announce the arrest of people with alleged ties to foreign intelligence agencies,
particularly the US, Britain and Israel. There was no immediate comment by Washington.

In the political upheaval, Iran's Administrative Justice Court issued a four-year ban on government service against Hamid Baqaei, the vice president for executive affairs.

(Agencies)