Iran won't "retaliate" for nuclear scientist killings

Reuters News
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Posted: Sep 20, 2011 12:53 PM
Iran won't "retaliate" for nuclear scientist killings

VIENNA (Reuters) - Iran will not retaliate against its enemies who killed Iranian nuclear scientists but wants international action to help prevent further attacks, its envoy to the U.N. atomic agency said on Tuesday.

Ambassador Ali Asghar Soltanieh called the assassinations, which Tehran blames on Israel and other foes, a "crime against humanity" at an Iranian-organized media event in Vienna where the wife of one of the killed experts also spoke.

"We want not only our scientists, we want all scientists of the whole world, to be protected," he told reporters on the sidelines of an annual member state gathering of the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

But, Soltanieh said, "the Islamic Republic of Iran is not going to retaliate."

In July, university lecturer Darioush Rezaie was shot dead by gunmen in eastern Tehran, the third murder of a scientist since 2009. One was killed in a car bomb, the second by a device detonated remotely.

Iran has said the attacks were the work of enemies that wished to deny it the right to develop nuclear technology which it says is aimed at generating electricity but which the West suspects has military goals.

Washington has denied any involvement in the murders. Israel has declined to comment.

ESCALATING NUCLEAR DISPUTE

The assassinations coincide with steadily deteriorating ties between Iran and the West in a long-running row over Tehran's disputed nuclear program, which has the potential to spark a wider conflict in the Middle East.

Israel, which like the United States has not ruled out military strikes if diplomacy fails to resolve the dispute, sees Iran's nuclear activities as a potential existential threat against the Jewish state, which Iran does not recognize.

The wife of killed scientist Majid Shahriyari said Israeli intelligence services had "put the assassination of Iran's scientific elites on the agenda" and that those who "falsely claim human rights" shared the blame through their silence.

Behjat Ghasemi, an academic who survived the attack that killed her husband as they drove to a Tehran university late last year, said he was a "legend and example of morality."

The current head of Iran's atomic energy organization, Fereydoun Abbasi-Davani, was slightly wounded in a separate attack the same day in November 2010. Also a scientist, he was named to the top nuclear energy chief job a few months later.

Soltanieh said the issue of attacks on scientists fell within the mandate of the Vienna-based U.N. atomic agency to strengthen nuclear security and combat nuclear terrorism.

"It is in the domain of IAEA ... we are trying to pursue it and hopefully in the end we will have a commission to investigate (the matter)," he said. "We will pursue (the issue) here and at the United Nations (in New York)."

Abbasi-Davani, at a news conference in Vienna on Monday, accused British spies of shadowing him around the world to gather information ahead of the failed attempt on his life.

Subject to U.N. sanctions because of what Western officials said was his involvement in suspected atomic arms research, he also blamed Israel and the United States for the attacks on him and other Iranian scientists.

Western countries have previously dismissed allegations of this nature from the Islamic state, which is one of the world's biggest oil producers.

(Reporting by Fredrik Dahl; Editing by Matthew Jones)