Iran blames ‘Zionist regime’ for killing top nuke scientist

Country’s nuclear chief says Majid Shahriari involved in a ‘major project’; Israeli officials decline to comment

By AP
November 30, 2010 01:10
3 minute read.
The car of one professor targetted in car bombing

Iran professor car bomb 311 AP. (photo credit: AP)

 
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A top nuclear scientist was killed in Teheran on Monday when magnetized bombs attached to his car went off.

Iran’s nuclear chief, Ali Akbar Salehi, said the dead man, Majid Shahriari, had been involved in a major project with the country’s nuclear agency, although he did not give specifics. Iranian media reported that the scientist had been a laser expert at the Defense Ministry and one of the country’s few top specialists in nuclear isotope separation.

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“Undoubtedly, the hand of the Zionist regime and Western governments is involved in the assassination,” President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told a press conference.

But he said the attack would not hamper the nuclear program and vowed that one day Iran would take revenge.

“The day in the near future when time will come for taking them into account, their file will be very thick,” he said.

Iranian officials said they suspected the killing was part of a covert campaign aimed at damaging the country’s nuclear program. At least two other Iranian nuclear scientists have been killed in recent years, one of them in an attack similar to Monday’s.



Israeli officials declined to comment on the reports, but it and the United States have been leading covert efforts to stop Iran’s nuclear drive, according to foreign reports. Israel has been accused in recent years of carrying out a number of assassinations in Iran, as well as sabotaging equipment related to the nuclear program.

Shahriari was a member of the nuclear engineering faculty at Shahid Beheshti University in Teheran. His wife, who was in the car with him, was wounded.

Shahriari cooperated with the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, said Salehi, who heads the organization.

“He was involved in one of the big AEOI projects, which is a source of pride for the Iranian nation,” Salehi added, according to IRNA, without giving any details on the project. Salehi also said the slain scientist had been one of his own students.

The AEOI is in charge of Iran’s nuclear activities, including its uranium enrichment program.

In a simultaneous attack, assailants planted a bomb on the car of fellow scientist Fereidoun Abbasi, who was wounded along with his wife.

A pro-government website, mashreghnews.ir, said Abbasi held a PhD in nuclear physics and had long been a member of the Revolutionary Guard. It said he was also a lecturer at Teheran’s Imam Hossein University, affiliated with the Guard. The United States accuses the Guard of having a role in Iran’s nuclear program.

The website said Abbasi was a laser expert at the Defense Ministry and also one of the few top Iranian specialists in nuclear isotope separation.

Isotope separation – meaning the isolation of a specific isotope of an element – is a process needed for a range of purposes, from producing enriched uranium fuel for a reactor, to manufacturing medical isotopes, to producing a bomb.

Monday’s attacks bore close similarities to another in January that killed Masoud Ali Muhammadi, a senior physics professor at Teheran University. He was killed when a bomb-rigged motorcycle exploded near his car as he was about to leave for work.

Meanwhile, Ahmadinejad confirmed for the first time on Monday that a computer worm affected centrifuges in the country’s uranium enrichment program.

Iran had previously denied that the Stuxnet worm, which experts say is calibrated to destroy centrifuges, had caused any damage, saying its experts had uncovered the virus before it could have any effect.

But Ahmadinejad said on Monday it “managed to create problems for a limited number of our centrifuges.”

Speaking to a press conference, he said the problems had been resolved.

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