Iran said Friday it has cracked several U.S. espionage rings and vowed to punish the "big American spies" who were plotting to overthrow the government of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

Parliament Speaker Hashemi Rafsanjani announced during a weekly prayer session at Tehran University that a large number of the spies have been arrested in recent weeks, according to Iran's official Islamic Republic News Agency reported, monitored in Nicosia.He claimed the arrests have exposed the entire CIA operation in the Middle East. Rafsanjani said the Americans "should have realized that . . . this country is no place for coups."

In Washington, White House press secretary Marlin Fitzwater said he had no information on the spy allegations.

"My information is we don't really know what they're talking about. They make similar claims every once in a while about American spies when they need a little attention," Fitzwater said.

Rafsanjani said some of the spies were Iranian navy personnel who transmitted intelligence on Iranian naval deployments to the U.S. Navy "when they were fighting us in the Persian Gulf."

He said the Iranian ship Iran Ajr, which was attacked and boarded by U.S. forces in the gulf on Sept. 21, 1987 as it was laying mines, was "betrayed by these very people."