Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Saturday accused Israel of assassinating Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the Islamic country’s prominent scientist.
“Once again, the wicked hands of the global arrogance, with the usurper Zionist regime as the mercenary, were stained with the blood of a son of this nation,” Rouhani said in a statement on his official website, referring to Fakhrizadeh’s killing.
“The assassination of martyr Fakhrizadeh shows our enemies’ despair and the depth of their hatred… His martyrdom will not slow down our achievements,” he added.
Rouhani said Israel aims to create “chaos” by carrying out the scientist’s assassination and that Iran will retaliate at “the proper time.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office has said it would not comment on the attack. But revelations that Netanyahu once called out Fakhrizadeh’s name in a news conference, saying “remember that name” has fueled speculation of the country’s involvement.
Khamenei vows ‘punishment’ for assassins
Iranian authorities have threatened to avenge Fakhrizadeh’s death, who was gunned down in his car near Tehran on Friday.
Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Saturday called for “punishing” those behind Fakhrizadeh’s assassination. He called for “following up on this crime and certainly punishing the perpetrators and those responsible, and … continuing the scientific and technical efforts of this martyr in all of the fields he was working in,” according to a statement on his official website.
In a separate tweet, Khamenei said that Iran will pursue a “decisive punishment” for the perpetrators and ensure that Fakhrizadeh’s scientific and technical efforts will be continued.
Israel on Saturday raised the level of alert at its embassies around the world in the face of a possible revenge attack, according to Channel 12’s N12 website.
A setback to diplomatic efforts
The assassination could provoke confrontation between Tehran and Washington in the last weeks of Donald Trump’s presidency.
US President-elect Joe Biden, who is set to take office in January, has promised to mend ties with Iran through diplomacy after four years of Trump’s hawkish stance.
Trump withdrew from the 2018 Iran nuclear deal, accusing the Islamic Republic of using nuclear technology to build weapons of mass destruction. In January, a US airstrike killed Iran’s top military commander Qassem Soleimani, with Trump threatening Iran with more actions.
The United States also slapped sanctions on Fakhrizadeh in 2008 for “activities and transactions that contributed to the development of Iran’s nuclear program.”
Berlin urges restraint
Germany, meanwhile, urged all sides to show restraint over the killing and avoid escalating tensions that could derail any talks on Iran’s nuclear program.
“A few weeks before the new US administration takes office, it is important to preserve the scope for talks with Iran so that the dispute over Iran’s nuclear program can be resolved through negotiations,” a Foreign Ministry spokesman said.
“We, therefore, urge all parties to refrain from any steps that could lead to a further escalation of the situation,” he said in an emailed statement.
Iran vows to continue Fakhrizadeh’s path
Ali-Akbar Salehi, the head of Iran’s nuclear agency, has vowed that Fakhrizadeh’s assassination will not stop the country’s nuclear program.
“Fakhrizadeh’s path is now being continued even more intensively,” Salehi said on Saturday.
Communications Minister Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi made a similar statement. “Thousands will grow back for the one flower that is torn out,” the minister tweeted.
shs/aw (AFP, Reuters, dpa)
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