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Iran vows revenge over slain scientist
Published on: Monday, November 30, 2020
By: AP
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Iran’s Judiciary Chief Ayatollah Ebrahim Raisi pays his respect to the body of slain scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh in Tehran. (AP)
TEHRAN: Iran’s supreme leader demanded the “definitive punishment” of those behind the killing of a scientist who led Tehran’s disbanded military nuclear program, as the Islamic Republic blamed Israel for a slaying that has raised fears of reignited tensions across the Middle East.

After years of being in the shadows, the image of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh suddenly was to be seen everywhere in Iranian media, as his widow spoke on state television and officials publicly demanded revenge on Israel for the scientist’s slaying. 

Israel, long suspected of killing Iranian scientists a decade ago amid earlier tensions over Tehran’s nuclear program, has yet to comment on Fakhrizadeh’s killing Friday. However, the attack bore the hallmarks of a carefully planned, military-style ambush, the likes of which Israel has been accused of conducting before.

The attack has renewed fears of Iran striking back against the US, Israel’s closest ally in the region, as it did earlier this year when a US drone strike killed a top Iranian general. The US military acknowledged moving an aircraft carrier back into the region, while an Iranian lawmaker suggested throwing out UN nuclear inspectors in response to the killing.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called Fakhrizadeh “the country’s prominent and distinguished nuclear and defensive scientist.” Khamenei, who has the final say on all matters of state, said Iran’s first priority after the killing was the “definitive punishment of the perpetrators and those who ordered it.” He did not elaborate.

Speaking earlier Saturday, President Hassan Rouhani blamed Israel for the killing. 

“We will respond to the assassination of Martyr Fakhrizadeh in a proper time,” Rouhani said. “The Iranian nation is smarter than falling into the trap of the Zionists. They are thinking to create chaos.”

The United Nations called for restraint. 

“Of course we condemn any assassination or extra-judicial killing,“ said Stephane Dujarric, spokesperson for Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. “We urge restraint and the need to avoid any actions that could lead to an escalation of tensions in the region.”

Both Rouhani and Khamenei said Fakhrizadeh’s death would not stop the nuclear program. Iran’s civilian atomic program has continued its experiments and now enriches a growing uranium stockpile up to 4.5pc purity in response to the collapse of Iran’s nuclear deal after the US’ 2018 withdrawal from the accord. 

That’s still far below weapons-grade levels of 90pc, though experts warn Iran now has enough low-enriched uranium for at least two atomic bombs if it chose to pursue them.

Analysts have compared Fakhrizadeh to being on par with Robert Oppenheimer, the scientist who led America’s Manhattan Project in World War II that created the atom bomb. 

Fakhrizadeh headed Iran’s so-called Amad programme that Israel and the West have alleged was a military operation looking at the feasibility of building a nuclear weapon. The International Atomic Energy Agency says that “structured program” ended in 2003. Iran long has maintained its nuclear program is peaceful. 

Fakhrizadeh’s widow appeared unnamed on state television in a black chador, saying his death would spark a thousand others to take up his work.

“He wanted to get martyred and his wish came true,” she said. 



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