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Middle east

US official slams Tehran’s allegation that it had role in bombing as ‘absurd’

Text by FRANCE 24 (with wires)

Latest update : 2010-01-12

The US has denied Iranian accusations that it had a hand in the fatal bombing in Tehran that killed a nuclear scientist. The incident has put the already strained relations between the West and Tehran under further pressure.

A US official has rejected Iranian accusations that the United States had a hand in an explosion which killed a Tehran University nuclear scientist, calling the allgation “absurd”.

The scientist, Massoud Ali-Mohammadi, a particle physics professor at the prestigious Tehran University, was killed by a remote controlled bomb, according to Iranian state media. After the incident, Iran’s foreign ministry laid the blame on “mercenaries” from Israel and the United States.

"One can see in preliminary investigations signs of evilness by the triangle of the Zionist regime, America and their mercenaries in Iran in this terrorist incident," foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said.

Tehran's chief prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi, echoed his words, implicating US and Israeli intelligence services.

Speaking on the condition of anonymity, a US State Department official decried the accusations, saying "Charges of US involvement are absurd".

The killing comes amid an increasingly bitter standoff between Iran and other world powers over Tehran's controversial nuclear programme, which the West suspects is intended for creating nuclear weapons.

"Given the fact that Massoud Ali Mohammadi was a nuclear scientist, the CIA and Mossad services and agents most likely have had a hand in it," Dolatabadi told the state broadcaster's news service.

Dolatabadi told the ISNA news agency that Mohammadi died when a booby-trapped motorbike parked outside his house exploded as he was getting into his car.

Bomb attacks are rare in Iran, although several security officials and members of the elite Revolutionary Guards have been killed in bombings by rebels in restive Sistan-Baluchestan province in the east of the country.

A witness told AFP that Tuesday's explosion was a "strong blast breaking windows in neighbouring houses and cars".

Iran's state-run Arabic-language television Al-Alam identified Mohammadi as a "hezbollahi" teacher - a term used for staunch supporters of the Iranian regime.

"This assassination may have been carried out by the Hypocrites (Iran's exiled People's Mujahideen opposition) or planned by the Zionist regime," Al-Alam said.

The opposition group denied any involvement in the attack.

"The NCRI has no connection with this murder," a spokesman for the National Council of Resistance of Iran, which includes the banned People's Mujahideen, told AFP in Paris.

Iranian authorities regularly accuse archenemies the United States and Israel of seeking to stir unrest in Iran, and the two countries have never ruled out a military action as a possibility regarding Iran’s controversial nuclear programme.

None of the reports said whether Mohammadi was connected to Iran's nuclear enrichment programme and a colleague described him as non-political.

"He was a prominent full professor but he was not a political figure. He had no political activity," Ali Maghari, who heads the faculty of sciences at Tehran university, told Mehr news agency.

However, Mohammadi's name appeared on a list of academics backing Iranian opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi for the disputed June 12 presidential election, which gave President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a second term.

The opposition claims the vote was massively rigged in Ahmadinejad's favour and has for the past six months been staging anti-government protests at every opportunity, many of which have been broken up by police who have arrested hundreds of demonstrators.

Hardliners have accused the People's Mujahideen of infiltrating the anti-government protests and carrying out attacks on regime targets.

Iran has been under international pressure to halt its sensitive uranium enrichment programme which is at the centre of fears about Iran's ambitions as the process which makes nuclear fuel can also be used to make atom bombs.

Despite three rounds of UN Security Council sanctions, Iran has continued to expand its nuclear programme, which it insists is for peaceful purposes only.

World powers seeking to curb Iran's atomic drive are still awaiting a response from Tehran to a UN-brokered offer to ship most of Iran's low enriched uranium abroad to be further refined into reactor fuel.

Iran has rejected the offer and has offered its own counter-proposal of a staged swap.

Some Western powers have dismissed the Iranian proposal and insist the Islamic republic accept the UN-backed deal or face further sanctions.

The United States, Russia, China, Britain France and Germany will meet late this week to discuss sanctions against Iran, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said last week.

Date created : 2010-01-12


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