Azeri policemen stand guard under the portrait of former president Heydar Aliyev in Baku
Azerbaijan has arrested 22 people on suspicion of plotting attacks on the US and Israeli embassies in Baku on behalf of neighbouring Iran, the national security ministry said Wednesday.
"Twenty-two citizens of Azerbaijan have been arrested by the national security ministry for cooperating with the Iranian Sepah," its statement said, referring to the elite Iranian Revolutionary Guards.
"On orders of the Sepah they were to commit terrorist acts against the US, Israeli and other Western states' embassies and the embassies' employees," it said.
The ministry said that the suspects were recruited from 1999 onwards and trained in the use of weapons and spy techniques at military camps in Iran to enable them to gather information on foreign embassies, organisations and companies in Azerbaijan and stage attacks, reports AFP.
"Firearms, cartridges, explosives and espionage equipment were found during the arrest," the statement said, without specifying when or how the arrests were made.
Tensions between the Islamic republic and mainly Muslim but officially secular Azerbaijan have risen in recent months, with a series of arrests in Baku of attack plot suspects with alleged links to Tehran.
Iran has also been angered by ex-Soviet Azerbaijan's ties to Israel and its reported purchase of hundreds of millions of dollars of weapons from the Jewish state.
This week however the neighbours appeared to be taking steps to improve relations as public declarations of friendship were made in Tehran during a visit by Azerbaijan's Defence Minister, Safar Abiyev.
"We are sure that we will face no problem from our brother and neighbour Azerbaijan," Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was quoted by the official IRNA news agency as saying on Monday after meeting Abiyev.