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Iranian Scientist Killed, Another Hurt In Bomb Attacks

An Iranian nuclear scientist has been killed and a second injured after bombs attached to their cars detonated in the early morning hours in the capital, Tehran.

The attacks were the latest in a string of apparent or suspected plots against Iranian nuclear scientists in recent years, which officials claim are Western- or Israeli-orchestrated attempts to disrupt the country’s controversial nuclear program.

Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad said that "undoubtedly the hand of the Zionist regime and Western governments is involved in the assassination."

But he said the attack would not interfere with that country's nuclear program and vowed future retribution.

"The day [will come] in the near future when time will come for taking them into account," he said.

The West accuses Iran of seeking to develop nuclear bombs, while Tehran insists that its uranium-enrichment activity is for peaceful, civilian purposes.

The United Nations has passed four rounds of sanctions to dissuade Iran from sensitive nuclear activities.

Ahmadinejad said that Tehran maintains a right to continue its uranium enrichment activity.

"One of our rights [as an International Atomic Energy Agency member state] is the right to the complete enrichment cycle and the production of [nuclear] fuel," Ahmadinejad said. "This is one of many rights. These rights are non-negotiable."

Involved In A 'Big Project'

The slain scientist, Majid Shahriari, was a member of the nuclear engineering faculty at the capital's Shahid Beheshti University.

Ali Akbar Salehi, Iran's nuclear chief, told state news agency IRNA that the scientist was involved "one of the big projects" with the country’s nuclear agency, but did not provide details.

"I promise that we will deliver more Shahriaris to the Iranian nation, and such plots will just accelerate the speed of Iran's nuclear programs," Salehi said, according to the agency.

Media reports said that Shahriari also represented Iran in a UNESCO-backed regional scientific program that also involves Israel.

The SESAME (Synchrotron Radiation Light for Experimental Science and Applications in the Middle East) project is meant to facilitate science and technology collaboration in the Middle East and thereby promote stability. It is a rare example of joint Israeli and Iranian participation in an international body.

A second attack the same day injured scientist Fereidoun Abbasi.

According to the pro-government website, Abbasi is a nuclear physicist and longtime member of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, a powerful military and economic force in the country.

The United States accuses the Revolutionary Guard of having a role in Iran's nuclear program.

The website also identified Abbasi as a laser expert at Iran's Defense Ministry and one of few top Iranian specialists in nuclear isotope separation.

The process is needed for a range of purposes, from producing enriched uranium fuel for a reactor, to manufacturing medical isotopes, to producing a bomb.

Other Incidents

According to Tehran police chief Hossein Sajednia, assailants on motorcycles attached magnetized bombs to the cars of the two scientists as they were driving to work this morning in two different parts of Tehran.

He said no one has been arrested in connection with the attack.

They come after a similar incident in January, when a senior Iranian physics professor, Masud Ali Mohammadi, was killed when a bomb-rigged motorcycle exploded near his car as he was about to leave for work.

In 2007, Iranian state TV reported that a nuclear scientist, Ardeshir Hosseinpour, died from gas poisoning, prompting speculation that he was targeted for his work.

When asked about Iranian accusations, an Israeli government spokesman, Mark Regev, said Israel did not comment on such matters.

Washington has strongly denied any link to previous attacks, and U.S. State Department Spokesman Philip Crowley responded by saying the United States condemns "acts of terrorism."

"All I can say is [that] we decry acts of terrorism wherever they occur, and beyond that, we do not have any information on what happened," Crowley said.

The events come as Ahmadinejad announced that several of the country's uranium-enrichment centrifuges were damaged by "software installed in electronic equipment."

He made the remark amid speculation that Iran's nuclear program recently came under cyberattack from outside the country.

The Iranian president also said today that Tehran has agreed to meeting with the five permanent members of the UN Security Council -- the United States, Russia, France, Britain, and China -- plus Germany, who seek to engage the Islamic republic on its nuclear program.

Iranian officials say the topic will not be up for negotiation.

written by Richard Solash with agency reporting