Iran scorns Israeli air defences, complains of cyber attack

* Israel's Iron Dome "doesn't work"-Iranian defence official

* Iranian experts "repel" cyber threat to offshore platforms

* Tehran hard-pressed by Western sanctions over nuclear work

By Yeganeh Torbati

DUBAI, Oct 8 (Reuters) - Iran derided Israel's air defencesas feeble on Monday, citing a drone incursion into itsarch-foe's airspace, but did not say it had sent the aircraftshot down by the Israelis at the weekend.

It also accused Israel and others of masterminding what itsaid was a cyber attack on communication networks on Iranianoffshore oil and gas platforms in the past few weeks.

With tension high over Iran's disputed nuclear programme andIsraeli threats to attack it, the remarks by Iranian officialspointed to possible aspects of a shadow war waged by the twoadversaries and perhaps by Israel's Western allies, whosesanctions have battered the Iranian economy and currency.

Jamaluddin Aberoumand, deputy coordinator for Iran's IslamicRevolutionary Guard Corps, said the drone intrusion showed thatIsrael's Iron Dome anti-missile defence system "does not workand lacks the necessary capacity", Fars news agency reported.

The Israeli air force shot down a drone on Saturday after itcrossed into southern Israel, the military said, but it remainedunclear where the aircraft had come from.

Iron Dome is designed to shoot down short-range guerrillarockets, not slow-flying planes such as drones.

The Israeli military said the drone was first spotted abovethe Mediterranean near the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip to the west ofIsrael and shot down by a fighter plane over Israeli territory.

Israeli parliament member and former military spokesman MiriRegev described it as "Iranian drone launched by Hezbollah", theLebanese Shi'ite group that fought a war with Israel in 2006.

Israeli defence officials have not confirmed this. Hezbollahhas sent a drone into Israeli airspace at least once previously.

Aberoumand attributed claims the drone was made by Iran to a"psychological operation" by Israel, but did not confirm or denythem. "The Zionist regime (Israel) has many enemies," he added.

Israel has threatened to bomb Iran's nuclear sites ifdiplomatic efforts fail to stop the nuclear work it believes isaimed at getting weapons capability, a charge Tehran denies.

Iran has responded with threats to attack U.S. militarybases in the region and retaliate against Israel if attacked.


Mohammad Reza Golshani, head of information technology forthe Iranian Offshore Oil Company, told Iran's Mehr news agencyIranian experts had been able to repel the cyber attack on theinformation networks on offshore oil and gas platforms.

"This attack was planned by the regime occupying Jerusalem(Israel) and a few other countries," Golshani said. Telephonecommunications on the platforms were now normal.

In an unrelated blow to Iran's energy exports, the gas flowon a pipeline carrying Iranian natural gas to Turkey was haltedon Monday by an explosion in eastern Turkey, where Kurdishmilitants have claimed repeated pipeline attacks in the past.

Iran, the world's No. 5 oil exporter, has tightened cybersecurity since 2010 when its uranium enrichment centrifuges werehit by the Stuxnet computer worm, which it blames on Israel orthe United States. Neither has acknowledged planting the worm.

Iran has reported several computer attacks in recent monthsand a Revolutionary Guard commander said last month the countrywould defend itself in case of a "cyber war".

Tehran is seeking to developing a national Internet system,which it says would improve cyber security. But many Iranianssay the plan is the latest way to control their access to theWeb, which is already highly censored.

Iran's hardline clerical leaders are determined to preventany new wave of unrest after the bloody turmoil that followedPresident Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's disputed re-election in 2009.

But street protests erupted last week over the plungingvalue of the rial, which lost a third of its dollar value in 10days as Western sanctions on Iran's oil and banking sectors cutthe country's ability to earn hard currency from oil exports.

Very little trading occurred on the open market on Monday,with the government-promoted rate of 28,500 rials to the dollarattracting little interest among those with dollars to sell.

The authorities have pressed dealers to trade dollars atcertain rates and have arrested money changers accused ofspeculating. Others, unwilling to use state-set rates and afraidto trade at black market rates, are retaining their dollars.

Ahmadinejad and his administration are bearing the brunt ofthe blame for the rial's fall. Parliament voted on Sunday toconsider halting further reform of Iran's food and fuelsubsidies, a centrepiece of the president's economic platform.

Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has stayedabove the fray, saying only that the Islamic Republic - whichhas also been disconcerted by the revolt convulsing Syria, itsclosest Arab ally - will not bow to outside pressure.

(Additional reporting by Orhan Coskun in Ankara; Writing byAlistair Lyon; editing by Ralph Boulton)

Keywords: IRAN ISRAEL/