Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, Iran’s most senior nuclear scientist, has been assassinated near Tehran, the country’s defense ministry has confirmed.
He died in hospital after an attack in Absard, in Damavand county.
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, has condemned the killing “as an act of state terror”.
Western intelligence agencies believe Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was behind a covert Iranian nuclear weapons program.
Iran insists its nuclear program is exclusively for peaceful purposes.
However, news of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh’s killing comes amid fresh concern about the increased amount of enriched uranium that Iran is producing. Enriched uranium is a vital component for both civil nuclear power generation and military nuclear weapons.
A 2015 deal with six world powers had placed limits on its production, but since President Donald Trump abandoned the deal in 2018, Iran has been deliberately reneging on its agreements.
Iran’s reformists have won a landslide victory in Tehran, in the first elections since the country signed a nuclear deal with world powers.
With 90% of the votes counted, the allies of reformist President Hassan Rouhani – the pro-Rouhani List of Hope – are set to take all 30 seats in Tehran.
The leading conservative candidate Gholamali Haddad-Adel is in 31st place.
Millions voted on February 26 to elect the 290-seat parliament as well as members of the Assembly of Experts.
The 88-member assembly appoints Iran’s Supreme Leader and might end up choosing a successor to Ayatollah Khamenei, who is 76 and has suffered ill-health.
Early results gave former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a moderate Conservative, and Hassan Rouhani the most votes for the assembly, which is composed of mostly elder and senior clerics.
By contrast, the leading candidate of Islamic hardliners, Ayatollah Taghi Mesbah Yazdi, was hovering near the bottom of the list.
The parliamentary result in Tehran is significant because lawmakers from the capital usually determine the political direction of the house, analysts say.
However, reformists look to have done less well in constituencies outside the capital.
Hassan Rouhani said on February 27 that the election gave the government more credibility and clout.
“The competition is over. It’s time to open a new chapter in Iran’s economic development based on domestic abilities and international opportunities,” the official Irna news agency quoted the president as saying.
“The people showed their power once again and gave more credibility and strength to their elected government.”
Voting was extended three times as crowds reportedly flocked to polling stations. Turnout was more than 60%.
Reformists, who want better relations with the outside world and more freedoms at home, were hoping to gain influence in the conservative-dominated bodies.
However, of 12,000 people who registered as candidates, only half were allowed to stand, including just 200 moderates.
This was the first election to be held since last year’s deal between Iran and world powers over the country’s nuclear program and the lifting of sanctions.
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has urged the world to draw a “clear red line” over Iran’s nuclear programme.
In a speech at the UN, Benjamin Netanyahu said time was running out to stop Tehran from having enough enriched uranium to build a nuclear bomb.
Israel and Western countries suspect Iran is seeking such a capability. Tehran says its programme is peaceful.
Earlier, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas asked the General Assembly to upgrade the Palestinians’ UN status.
Benjamin Netanyahu told delegates at the annual meeting of the assembly that Iran could have enough material to make a nuclear bomb by the middle of next year, and a clear message needed to be sent to stop Tehran in its tracks.
In a speech at the UN, Benjamin Netanyahu said time was running out to stop Tehran from having enough enriched uranium to build a nuclear bomb
“Red lines don’t lead to war, red lines prevent war,” he said.
“Nothing could imperil the world more than a nuclear-armed Iran.”
He said sanctions passed over the past seven years had not affected Tehran’s programme. “The hour is very late,” he told delegates.
“The Iranian nuclear calendar does not take time out.”
He said he was convinced that faced with a “clear red line, Iran will back down”.
He added that he was confident the US and Israel could chart a common path on the issue.
On Tuesday, in his own address to the General Assembly, US President Barack Obama stressed the US would “do what we must” to stop Tehran acquiring nuclear arms.
However, while the Obama administration has not ruled out a military option, it says sanctions and multilateral negotiations with Iran must still be given time to work.
Earlier this month, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the US was not prepared to commit to drawing “red lines”.
On Wednesday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad accused Western countries of nuclear “intimidation”.
“Continued threat by the uncivilized Zionists [Israel] to resort to military action is a clear example of this bitter reality,” he told the General Assembly.
In his own speech, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas focused largely on the Palestinians’ UN status, saying he would continue to seek full membership.
But he said negotiations had begun with “regional organizations and member states” aimed at adopting a resolution making Palestine “a non-member state of the United Nations during this session”.
“In our endeavor, we do not seek to delegitimize an existing state – that is Israel – but rather to assert the state that must be realized – that is Palestine.”
Currently, the Palestine Liberation Organisation only has “permanent observer” status. Last year, a bid for full-member status failed because of a lack of support at the UN Security Council.
The change would allow Palestinians to participate in General Assembly debates. It would also improve their chances of joining UN agencies and the International Criminal Court.
Last year, Palestinians joined the UN cultural agency Unesco, despite Israeli and US opposition.
Benjamin Netanyahu reaffirmed his country’s opposition to “unilateral declaration of statehood”.
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