Iran said on Tuesday that spies from the West had attempted to use lizards to spy on the country's nuclear program, Agence France-Presse reported.
Hassan Firuzabadi, a senior military advisor to Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, told local media that the lizards could "attract atomic waves."
He added that the Western spies "failed every time."
Firuzabadi, who until 2016 was the Iranian military chief of staff, was answering questions regarding several environmentalists who were recently placed under arrest.
One of them, an Iranian-Canadian named Kavous Seyed Emami, died in prison last Friday. He and other members of the prominent wildlife nongovernment organization he cofounded were arrested in January. The authorities called his death a suicide, a claim his family disputes.
Firuzabadi told AFP that he "did not know the details of the cases, but that the West had often used tourists, scientists and environmentalists to spy on Iran."
"Several years ago, some individuals came to Iran to collect aid for Palestine," he was quoted as saying. "We were suspicious of the route they chose."
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"In their possessions were a variety of reptile desert species like lizards, chameleons ... We found out that their skin attracts atomic waves and that they were nuclear spies who wanted to find out where inside the Islamic Republic of Iran we have uranium mines and where we are engaged in atomic activities," he said.
Iran's official IRNA news agency reported on Tuesday that Seyed Emami was sending information to the U.S. and Israeli intelligence services.
The report said that Seyed Emami, a university professor, was in custody for passing information on the country's missile bases to the CIA and Mossad and planning to create environmental crisis. The report didn't elaborate.
IRNA quoted Tehran prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dolatabdi as saying that Seyed Emami and a network of people installed cameras in strategic areas of the country pretending to observe environmental issues but, in fact "it was for monitoring the country's missile activities and they were sending images and information to foreigners."
Dolatabdi said Seyed Emami hosted one of two U.S. intelligence officers during their visit to Iran. He didn't elaborate.