IRAN NUCLEAR SCIENTIST KILLED BY CAR BOMB
** State media reports that magnetic bomb placed on vehicle has killed uranium enrichment supervisor in Tehran. **
January 12, 2012
A nuclear scientist who supervised a department at the Natanz uranium enrichment facility has been killed by a magnetic bomb placed on his car by two assailants in northern Tehran, Iranian media reported.
The attack strongly resembles earlier killings of scientists working on the country's controversial nuclear program.
The bomb explosion killed Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, a chemistry expert and a director of the Natanz facility in central Iran, the semi-official Fars news agency reported.
Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi said Israeli agents were behind the attack, but said they cannot "prevent progress'' in what Iran claims are peaceful nuclear efforts.
Safar Ali Baratloo, a senior security official, was also quoted by Fars as saying the attack was the work of Israelis.
"The magnetic bomb is of the same types already used to assassinate our scientists," he said.
Roshan, 32, was inside the Iranian-assembled Peugeot 405 with two others when the bomb expoded near Gol Nabi Street, Fars reported.
Fars described the explosion as a "terrorist attack" targeting Roshan, a graduate of the prestigious Sharif University of Technology in Tehran.
"The deputy governor of Tehran is blaming [the attack] on Israel, saying it wants to destabilize the country ahead of presidential elections in March," Al Jazeera's Dorsa Jabbari said.
"But it's unclear as to how, in such a secure city as Tehran, such attacks can take place over and over again."
Ahmadi Roshan was "working as the deputy in charge of commerce at the Natanz [uranium enrichment] site", said a posting on Sharif University's website. "He was working on project of making polymeric membrane for separating gas."
A similar bomb explosion on January 12, 2010, killed Masoud Ali Mohammadi, a senior physics professor at Tehran University, when a bomb-rigged motorcycle exploded near his car as he was about to leave for work.
In November 2010, a pair of back-to-back bomb attacks in different parts of the capital killed one nuclear scientist and wounded another.
The slain scientist, Majid Shahriari, was a member of the nuclear engineering faculty at Shahid Beheshti University in Tehran and co-operated with the Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran.
The wounded scientist, Fereidoun Abbasi, was almost immediately appointed head of Iran's atomic agency.
In July 2011, motorcycle-riding gunmen killed Darioush Rezaeinejad, an electronics student. Other reports identified him as a scientist involved in suspected Iranian attempts to make nuclear weapons.
Rezaeinejad allegedly participated in developing high-voltage switches, a key component in setting off the explosions needed to trigger a nuclear warhead.
Imad Khadduri, a nuclear expert, told Al Jazeera, "There are hundreds, if not thousands, of such scientists," beyond the five targeted in recent attacks.
He said the string of assassinations was "100 per cent Mossad [Israel's secret service]," but he called the victims "small fish".
Wednesday's assassination is "evidence of [foreign] government-sponsored terrorism" but will not stop Iran's nuclear program, Rahimi told state television.
"Today those who claim to be combating terrorism have targeted Iranian scientists," he said. "They should know that Iranian scientists are more determined than ever in striding towards Iran's progress."
The U.S. and Israel say Iran is trying to develop nuclear weapons technology. Iran denies the allegations, saying that its program is intended for peaceful purposes.
Reacting to the Tehran attack, Tommy Vietor, spokesman for the U.S. National Security Council, said: "The United States had absolutely nothing to do with this. We strongly condemn all acts of violence, including acts of violence like what is being reported today."
There was no immediate word from officials in Israel, which has always declined comment on previous such bombings.
However, Ronen Bergman, an Israeli author and journalist, told Al Jazeera that "for years Mossad has a tradition of assassinating scientists", for two specific purposes.
"One target is to take out people of profound importance [to the project], and the second target is to spread fear among the other scientists that the same fate may happen to them as well."
According to Ronen, the assassination demonstrated that "someone is highly capable in recruiting people from within the project and sabotaging it."
Lieutenant-General Benny Gantz, Israel's military chief of staff, was quoted as saying on Tuesday that Iran should expect more "unnatural" events in 2012.
His comments, to a closed-door parliamentary panel, were widely interpreted as alluding to previous acts of sabotage.
"For Iran, 2012 is a critical year in combining the continuation of its nuclearization, internal changes in the Iranian leadership, continuing and growing pressure from the international community and things which take place in an unnatural manner," Gantz was quoted as saying.
IRAN LACKS AVENUES FOR CONDEMNING HITS ON SCIENTISTS
By Louis Charbonneau
January 11, 2012
UNITED NATIONS -- Iran may be outraged at the killing of another nuclear scientist in broad daylight, but it lacks viable avenues for international condemnation or prosecution of what could be an attempt to sabotage its nuclear program.
Tehran urged the U.N. Security Council and Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday to condemn the latest in a series of assassinations, which it said were "cruel, inhumane and criminal acts of terrorism" aimed at undermining a nuclear program that Western powers and Israel suspect is for weapons.
Iran insists its nuclear program is peaceful and has defied Security Council demands -- backed up by four rounds of U.N. sanctions -- that it stop enriching uranium.
Iran's U.N. Ambassador Mohammad Khazaee appealed to Ban and the 15-nation council "to condemn, in the strongest terms, these inhumane terrorist acts and to take effective steps towards elimination of terrorism in all its forms and manifestations."
"Any kind of political and economic pressures or terrorist attacks targeting the Iranian nuclear scientists, could not prevent our nation in exercising this right" to pursue its nuclear program, Khazaee said in a letter, obtained by Reuters.
The United Nations has not heeded previous Iranian calls for condemnations of similar assassinations. Even if the Security Council were to take up the issue, the United States could use its veto power to block even the mildest condemnation.
Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky told reporters earlier on Wednesday that the United Nations was aware of the reports out of Tehran but had no immediate comment.
But Christof Heyns, the U.N. special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, said in a statement to Reuters the Wednesday assassination seemed to reflect a "worrying trend of extrajudicial executions of nuclear scientists in Iran."
"The killings are unlawful and should be condemned," Heyns said. "The onus is on the Iranian authorities to investigate what has happened, to make the evidence known and to bring the perpetrators to book."
Tehran blamed the United States and Israel for the attack, although Khazaee left that out of his letter. The White House denied any U.S. role and Israel declined to comment.
"STICKY MAGNETIC BOMB"
"Based on the existing evidence collected by the relevant Iranian security authorities, similar to previous incidents, perpetrators used the same terrorist method in assassinating Iranian nuclear scientists," Khazaee said.
He said the assassins worked by attaching "a sticky magnetic bomb to the car carrying the scientists and detonating it."
In October 2011, Khazaee complained to the council and Ban Ki-moon about the hits on Iranian scientists in a letter responding to U.S. allegations that Iran had plotted to assassinate Saudi Arabia's ambassador to Washington.
In early November, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said he had 100 "undeniable documents" proving that Washington was behind the "terrorist acts" in Iran.
Saeed Jalili, the secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, said Iran was handing over to the United Nations all the evidence of U.S. plots. Nothing came of the Iranian complaints.
Later in November, the overwhelming majority of the 193-nation U.N. General Assembly voted to condemn the alleged Iranian plot. Unlike the Saudis, Iran was unable to secure a condemnation of the assassinations of its scientists.
In the absence of war, targeted killings are illegal under international law. If Israel or the United States were found to be involved in the assassinations, it would violate the U.N. Charter, which bans the use of force against sovereign states.
Tehran could launch legal proceedings in Iran. The International Court of Justice in The Hague, established by the U.N. Charter, would be the most obvious international forum for Iran to bring a legal case. But the court will only hear cases where states involved jointly request its involvement.
One of the reasons the Saudi plot angered U.N. member states was that it was aimed at an envoy of a sovereign government. U.N. member states traditionally have no tolerance for threats against diplomats, whether friend or foe.
In 2010, Israel's Mossad intelligence agency was accused of sending a hit squad to assassinate a Hamas militant in a Dubai hotel. The suspected agents were caught on videotape following their target in the hotel.
Authorities in Britain and other European capitals launched their own investigations into the Dubai hit, but not because a member of Hamas had been killed. They were irritated by the fact that fraudulent European passports were used by the hit squad.
(Additional reporting by Andrew Longstreth and Rebecca Hamilton; Editing by Paul Simao)
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