Watchdog rejects Iran accusation over scientist's killing

The U.N. nuclear watchdog says on Friday it did not know an Iranian scientist who was killed last week, rejecting Teheran's suggestions it may have been partly to blame for his death by leaking information about him.

The International Atomic Energy Agency, a Vienna-based U.N. body, separately also confirmed that senior IAEA officials would travel to Teheran later this month for rare talks about the Islamic Republic's disputed nuclear programme.

The IAEA delegation, to be headed by Deputy Director General Herman Nackaerts, is expected to seek explanations for intelligence information that indicates Iran has engaged in research and development pointing to nuclear weapon ambitions.

"I am fully committed to working constructively with Iran and I trust that Iran will approach our forthcoming discussions in an equally constructive spirit," IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano said in a statement.

"My key priority in 2012 will be to try to make progress towards restoring international confidence in the peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear programme."

Iran's ambassador to the IAEA told Reuters on Tuesday the visit would take place from Jan 29-31 and that his country was open to discuss "any issues" of interest for the U.N. agency.

But Western diplomats, who have often accused Iran of using stalling tactics in the long-running nuclear dispute while it presses ahead with its atomic activities, are sceptical about the chances for major progress in the talks.

"Iran has made a lot of transparency pledges but hasn't lived up to them yet," said nuclear analyst Peter Crail of the Arms Control Association, a U.S. think tank and advocacy group.

Tension between Iran and the West over Iran's nuclear work has increased since November, when the IAEA published a report that said Teheran appeared to have worked on designing a nuclear weapon. Iran says its nuclear energy programme is peaceful and aimed at generating electricity.

Iran said on Thursday that the assassins who killed nuclear scientist Mostafa Ahmadi-Roshan, 32, on January 11 may have used information obtained from the United Nations.

Ahmadi-Roshan was killed by a motorbike hitman who attached a magnetic bomb to his car during the morning rush hour. Iran has accused U.S. and Israeli agents of being behind the killing.

Iran's deputy U.N. ambassador, Eshagh Al Habib, told the Security Council on Thursday that Ahmadi-Roshan recently met IAEA inspectors, "a fact that indicates that ... U.N. agencies may have played a role in leaking information on Iran's nuclear facilities and scientist".

But IAEA spokeswoman Gill Tudor said in an e-mail: "The Agency has not released this man's name. We do not know him."

Iran has previously accused the IAEA of leaking the names of nuclear scientists, making them potential targets for the security services of Iran's adversaries. IAEA officials have dismissed the allegations.

The murder of Ahmadi-Roshan was the fifth such attack in two years on technical experts involved in Iran's nuclear programme, which Western countries believe is aimed at producing an atomic weapon.

The United States has denied involvement in the killing and has condemned it. An Israeli minister said this week that Iran's charges of Israeli involvement were "completely baseless".

The Security Council has imposed four rounds of sanctions on Iran over its nuclear activities since 2006. Its list of sanctioned individuals did not include Ahmadi-Roshan, but does name another scientist, Fereydoun Abbasi-Davani, who was wounded in a Tehran car bomb blast in November 2010.

Three months after the attack, Abbasi-Davani was appointed director of the Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran, which runs the country's declared civilian nuclear energy programme.


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