Analysts believe Iran scientist death was a foreign hit

Tue Jul 26, 2011 12:27pm GMT

By Andrew Hammond

Jul (Reuters) - Western security agencies were most likely behind the killing of an Iranian scientist in an operation that underlines the myriad complications in the conflict over Iran's nuclear programme, analysts say.

Darioush Rezaie, 35, a university lecturer, was shot dead by gunmen in eastern Tehran on Saturday, the third murder of a scientist since 2009. One was killed in a car bomb, the second by a device detonated remotely.

The Iranian government's responses to past such incidents have appeared confused but the Rezaie case has surpassed previous levels, with the authorities speaking in strikingly different voices from the outset.

"Assassinations will continue to be a tool used in this covert war. While it's impossible to tell with certainty whether Rezaie was an active nuclear scientist, his death appears to be another episode in that war," said London-based analyst Ghanem Nuseibeh, founder of Cornerstone Global Associates.

"The Iranian narrative has been confused about Rezaie's work and this adds credence to the speculation that he has been involved in the nuclear programme."

When news of the shooting first came out, semi-official news agency Mehr published information on Rezaie's background which indicated involvement in Iranian nuclear activities that have brought international sanctions on the Tehran government.

But the report was then immediately withdrawn by Mehr and Iran's intelligence minister Heydar Moslehi and other officials denied Rezaie had any links to the nuclear energy programme.

Then when parliament speaker Ali Larijani blamed the United States and Israel in a speech broadcast live on state television on Sunday, Moslehi said it was too early to tell.   Continued...

An undated image released by Iran's ISNA news agency of Iranian scientist Darioush Rezaie who was shot dead by a motorcyclist in Tehran July 24, 2011.  REUTERS/ISNA/Handout
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