Iran to enhance security for nuclear scientists
TEHRAN: Iran said Wednesday it will increase security for its nuclear scientists as a funeral was held for a leading expert killed in a mysterious assassination that the government blamed on the Mossad and the CIA.
Iranian state media said the killing of the scientist and the wounding of another on Monday was part of a Western campaign to sabotage its nuclear program, which the U.S. and its allies suspect is aimed at producing weapons - something Iran denies.
According to Iran, that campaign included the abduction of Iranian scientists, the sale of faulty equipment and the planting of a destructive computer worm known as Stuxnet, which briefly brought Iran's uranium enrichment activity to a halt last month.
Iran's chief suspect is archenemy Israel, whose Mossad spy agency has a long history of assassinating foes far beyond the country's borders. In this case, Iran accuses Israel of enlisting agents of an Iranian opposition group, the People's Mujahedeen, to carry out the hit, the defense minister said. There was also coordination with the CIA and Britain's MI6, he claimed.
The daring attacks - if they were the work of a foreign power - suggest that the standoff between Iran and the West over Tehran's uranium enrichment program has entered a new and extremely dangrous phase.
Iran's nuclear chief, Ali Akbar Salehi, said Wednesday the assassination was a warning to Iran before Dec. 6-7 nuclear talks with world powers. "The wicked people wanted to demonstrate their ugly side, which is the policy of carrot and stick, prior to the upcoming nuclear talks," Salehi said at the funeral, according to state TV.
The two scientists were targeted by bombs that hit their cars in separate parts of the capital. Tehran's police chief has said assailants on motorcycles stuck magnetized bombs to their cars while they were moving through traffic and detonated them seconds later.
Time magazine reported a different account Tuesday, saying an explosive charge was placed inside the slain man's car and detonated by remote control after he got into the vehicle. It quoted a Western intelligence expert with knowledge of the operation, and said the other attack was similar. Several Iranian news websites said Wednesday the man who survived, Fereidoun Abbasi, realized he was under attack and was able to stop the car and jump out along with his wife. A pro-government website, mashreghnews.ir, said Abbasi was a laser expert and one of the few top Iranian specialists in nuclear isotope separation. -Ap
BRUSSELS: Belgian minister for Home Affairs Annemie Turtelboom (L) confers with Swedish minister of Justice Beatrice Ask prior to a Justice and Home Affairs council on December 2, 2010 at the EU headquarters. -Ap