Iranian nuclear scientist killed in Tehran - report

TEHRAN Sat Jul 23, 2011 6:39pm BST

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TEHRAN (Reuters) - An Iranian physicist was shot dead by a motorcyclist in Tehran Saturday and Iran's student news agency ISNA quoted an unnamed police official as saying the man was a nuclear scientist.

ISNA named the scientist as Darioush Rezaie, 35, a university teacher who held a PhD in physics. It was not clear whether he was part of Iran's nuclear enrichment program. Enriched uranium can be used for civilian nuclear purposes, but also to build atomic bombs.

"An Iranian nuclear scientist was assassinated in front of his house today ... and his wife was also wounded," it said. "He was shot dead by a motorcyclist."

Deputy Interior Minister Safarali Baratlou said it was not clear whether Rezaie was a nuclear scientist, Iran's Labour News Agency ILNA reported. "Police investigations are continuing ... Nobody has been arrested so far," Baratlou told ILNA.

The state news agency IRNA also reported the assassination but gave different details. Officials were not available for comment.

"Rezaie was a PhD student in electronics ... He was assassinated in front of his child's nursery in Bani Hashem street," IRNA said, quoting an unnamed official. "His wife, who was wounded in the attack, has been hospitalised."

There was no immediate claim of responsibility. Several nuclear scientists have been assassinated in Iran in the past few years, and in November one Iranian scientist was killed and one was wounded in Tehran.

Iranian officials and media have blamed Israel, which Tehran calls "the Zionist regime," and the United States for the killings.

In the past few months, the Islamic Republic has arrested a number of alleged "nuclear spies" and ordered its citizens not to leak information to foreign secret services.

Iran is at odds with the United States and its allies over its nuclear program, which the West says is a cover to build bombs. Iran, a major oil producer, denies the allegations and says it is enriching uranium solely to provide an alternative source of electricity.

Tehran's refusal to halt its disputed enrichment work has led to the imposition of several rounds of sanctions by the United Nations, the European Union and the United States.

(Writing by Parisa Hafezi, editing by Tim Pearce)

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