October 5, 2010

Iran Blames Stuxnet Worm On Covert Western Plot

Iran said on Tuesday that a computer worm found on laptops of several employees at the country's nuclear power plant is part of a covert Western plot to try and derail its nuclear program.

Iranian officials said the Stuxnet worm has affected computers of employees at the Bushehr nuclear power plant and that it could be a conspiracy to damage Iran's nuclear activities.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast's comments on Tuesday accused Western countries of the sabotage.

The U.S., Israel and others accuse Iran of seeking to use the Bushehr nuclear power plant and other civil nuclear sites as a cover for a secret program to develop atomic weapons.  Iran says that its nuclear program is peaceful.

Mehmanparast said sabotage and pressure will not make Iran stop its nuclear activities.

"They (the West) have shown by their words and actions that they try, through any possible means, to prevent or delay our peaceful nuclear activities," Mehmanparast told a news conference. "These actions won't make us give up our (nuclear) rights at all. These methods won't help stop or delay nuclear activities in our country," he added.

Stuxnet has also emerged in India, Indonesia and the U.S.  The code is designed to take over industrial sites like the Bushehr nuclear plant.  Iran said the Stuxnet worm infected personal computers of Bushehr employees, but not the plant's main systems.

The start of Bushehr has been delayed, but Iran's Vice President Ali Akbar Salehi said it was not due to the worm.  He said a leak was delaying the start.

Some foreign experts believe the worm was designed to target Tehran's nuclear program.

According to the Associated Press, web security firm Symantec Corp. says a government or a well-funded private group likely spawned the computer work.  The firm said that a small team of as many as five to 10 highly educated and well-funded hackers apparently constructed it.

The Bushehr plant has stood outside the current controversy over Iran's nuclear program.  Russia has helped out the program by providing fuel for the plant and supervising its disposal.

Other aspects of Iran's nuclear work are of concern to the U.S. and other world powers.  The enrichment of uranium can be used to produce weapons as well as make fuel for power plants.

Iranian Intelligence Minister Heidar Moslehi said the arrests of several people it alleged were suspected of nuclear espionage have been made.