Caroline Alexander – SMH December 4, 2010
IRAN claims it has detained suspects with links to foreign intelligence agencies over attacks that killed a physicist working on its atomic program.
”With the arrests of these people, we have found new clues to arrest other elements,” the Intelligence Minister, Heidar Moslehi, told the state-run Press TV on Thursday. He did not give details of the arrests, or reveal the number of people in custody or their nationalities.
Mr Moslehi said the suspects co-operated with the CIA, Israel’s Mossad and Britain’s MI6. The accusation that Britain had a role in the bombing that killed Majid Shahriari, a faculty member at Shahid Beheshti University, adds to initial accusations by Iran that the US and Israel were responsible.
Assailants on motorcycles attached bombs to the cars of Mr Shahriari and another nuclear scientist, Fereidoun Abbasi, who was named on United Nations security resolution 1747 as being ”involved in nuclear or ballistic missile activities”, as they were driving to work, reported al-Jazeera. Earlier this year another Iranian nuclear scientist, Masoud Ali Mohammadi, an expert on particle physics, was killed in a similar assassination.
Tehran accuses the West and Israel of dispatching hit squads against people involved in its atomic program, but some Iranian opposition groups speculate that the assassinations might have been carried out by the country’s powerful Revolutionary Guard to prevent potential defections.
Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Agency, has said the country is stepping up security for its scientists.
He told the state-run Iranian Students News Agency on Thursday: ”We have been pursuing serious protective measures for hundreds of our scientists and experts since last year.
”We will multiply protective measures and take other steps as well.”
Mr Salehi said Mr Shahriari was under protection at the time of his death.
”But devilish ways employed by enemies cannot be predicted,” he said.
”Dr Shahriari did not live in his own home and he was under protection somewhere else, but the terrorist attack came in the twinkling of an eye.”
Iran also said the recent remarks by the head of MI6, Sir John Sawers, who said ”intelligence-led operations” were needed to prevent states ”like Iran” from developing nuclear weapons, were an indication that Britain was involved in the assassinations.
”The enemy has found that Iran’s nuclear work is advancing considerably and has turned into a symbol of power for the Iranian nation,” Mr Salehi said. ”It makes efforts to withhold the Iranian nation from the power, but they made a big mistake.”
The US has denied involvement in the killing. The White House spokesman, Tommy Vietor, called the accusations ”absurd”. ”We have pursued peaceful and diplomatic means to deal with Iran’s nuclear program,” he said.
Israeli officials say they do not comment on such allegations.