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Iran mulls response to scientist killing

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Servants of the holy shrine of Imam Reza carry the coffin of Iran’s assassinated top nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh during his funeral procession in the northeastern city of Mashhad. IRANIAN DEFENCE MINISTRY/AFP

Iran mulls response to scientist killing

Debate raged in Iran on November 29 over how and when to respond to a top nuclear scientist’s assassination, blamed on arch-foe Israel, as his body was honoured at Shiite shrines to prepare it for burial.

Two days after Mohsen Fakhrizadeh died from wounds sustained in a firefight between his guards and unidentified gunmen near Tehran, parliament demanded a halt to international inspections of Iranian nuclear sites while a top official hinted Iran should leave the global non-proliferation treaty.

Iran’s Supreme National Security Council usually handles decisions related to the country’s nuclear programme, and parliamentary bills must be approved by the powerful Guardian council.

President Hassan Rouhani has stressed the country will seek its revenge in “due time” and not be rushed into a “trap”.

Israel says Fakhrizadeh was the head of an Iranian military nuclear programme, the existence of which the Islamic republic has consistently denied, and Washington had sanctioned him in 2008 for activities linked to Iran’s atomic activities.

His body was taken for a ceremony on November 29 at a major shrine in the holy city of Qom before being transported to the shrine of the Islamic republic’s founder Imam Khomeini, according to Iranian media.

Fakhrizadeh’s funeral was set to be held on November 30 in the presence of senior military commanders and his family, the defence ministry said on its website, without specifying where.

Israel has not officially commented on Fakhrizadeh’s killing, less than two months before US President-elect Joe Biden is set to take office after four years of hawkish foreign policy under President Donald Trump.

Trump withdrew the US from a multilateral nuclear agreement with Iran in 2018 and then re-imposed and beefed up punishing sanctions as part of its “maximum pressure” campaign against Tehran.

Biden has signalled his administration may be prepared to rejoin the accord, but the nuclear scientist’s assassination has revived opposition to the deal among Iranian conservatives.

The head of Iran’s Expediency Council, a key advisory and arbitration body, said there was “no reason why [Iran] should not reconsider the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty”.

Mohsen Rezai said Tehran should also halt implementation of the additional protocol, a document prescribing intrusive inspections of Iran’s nuclear facilitates.

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