Switzerland and Austria say they are investigating reports that spyware linked to Israel targeted the hotels hosting the closed-door nuclear talks between Iran and the P5+1 states.
The Swiss attorney general’s office said on Thursday that it had launched a probe into the espionage reports on May 6 and conducted a raid six days later, seizing computer equipment, due to “suspicion of illegal intelligence services operating in Switzerland.”
However, it did not specify if the hotels hosting the negotiations on Iran’s nuclear case were the target of the spying activities.
In a similar statement on Thursday, Austria also announced that it has started investigating possible spying at its hotels where Iran and the six world powers have held their sensitive nuclear discussions.
“Investigations are ongoing” regarding the Palais Coburg hotel, Austrian Interior Ministry spokesman Karl-Heinz Grundboeck told AFP.
The announcements come as the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported on Wednesday that a computer virus, widely used by Israeli spies, had attacked the hotels hosting nuclear talks between Iran and six powers.
The development could serve as “the first concrete evidence that the nuclear negotiations were targeted and by whom,” the WSJ wrote.
Russian-based Cybersecurity Company Kaspersky said on Wednesday that the malware dubbed Duqu, a sophisticated spy tool that was believed to have been eradicated in 2012, appeared to have been used to spy on the talks on Iran’s nuclear issue.
The malware has been characterized as an invigorated version of the Duqu virus, associated with Tel Aviv’s “most sensitive intelligence-collection operations,” the paper wrote.
Officials from P5+1, the European Union and Iran wait for a session of nuclear talks to open at the Beau Rivage Palace Hotel in Lausanne, Switzerland, on March 31, 2015. (© AFP)
Both Austria and the Switzerland have hosted several rounds of talks between Iran and the P5+1 states – Russia, China, France, Britain, the US and Germany – which are working to a reach a comprehensive nuclear deal by the end of June.
The two sides have held talks at Swiss hotels of Beau-Rivage Palace, Royal Plaza Montreux, Intercontinental and Hotel President Wilson as well as Palais Coburg in Vienna, Austria’s capital.
Meanwhile, the Israeli regime has denied links to the spying.
“There is no basis to the all the international reports on Israel's involvement in the affair. What is much more important is that we prevent a bad agreement, otherwise at the end of the day we'll find ourselves with an Iranian nuclear umbrella,” claimed Tzipi Hotovely, Israeli deputy minister for foreign affairs.
A member of the Iranian nuclear team has, however, said the country’s negotiators had already been taking into consideration “the high risk and possibility of eavesdropping and are always cautious” regardless of the recent reports.
Angered by the diplomatic efforts to resolve the Iranian nuclear issue, the Israeli regime has been engaged in intense lobbying to thwart a final agreement between Tehran and its negotiating sides.