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Iran to Give ‘Firm’ Reply to Scientist Murder, Minister Says

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Jan. 16 (Bloomberg) -- Iran’s intelligence minister warned of a “firm response” to the killing of an Iranian nuclear scientist and a senior military adviser said “every means” will be used to defend “national interests” as the country faces growing pressure to curtail its nuclear program.

“The U.S., the U.K. and Mossad,” Israel’s intelligence agency, “will see the results of their actions and Iran will deliver a firm response,” Heidar Moslehi said in the capital Tehran yesterday, according to the state-run Fars news agency.

Iran will use “every means” of defense if endangered, Major General Yahya Rahim Safavi, the Iranian supreme leader’s senior military adviser, was cited as saying by the state-owned Islamic Republic News Agency.

Iranian officials have accused the U.S. and Israel of targeting Iranian nuclear scientists in an effort to halt the country’s atomic program. Moslehi said the three nations he named wouldn’t be able to “hide” their role in last week’s murder of Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, a deputy director at the Natanz uranium-enrichment facility in Isfahan province, Fars reported.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has rejected the accusation. Yigal Palmor, an Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman, has said he had no comment on the reports.

Arrests

“A number of people” who played a role in the killing have been arrested and an investigation is under way, Iranian Arabic language TV channel Al Alam reported, citing Ali Larijani, speaker of the Iranian parliament.

Tensions have risen over U.S. and European efforts to tighten economic sanctions on Iran. Western nations say Iran’s nuclear work may be aimed at producing atomic weapons, an allegation the Persian Gulf country rejects.

European Union foreign ministers will meet on Jan. 23 to consider barring oil from Iran, the second-biggest producer in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries after Saudi Arabia. Iran has threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz, the world’s largest choke point for oil tankers, if its crude is sanctioned. Iran held 10 days of naval maneuvers east of Hormuz that ended on Jan. 3.

“No country in the world can manage the shock that results from 15 to 17 million barrels of oil not entering the market,” Mehr news agency reported today, citing comments by Iranian OPEC Governor Mohammad Ali Khatibi. Arab oil suppliers should refrain from supporting a possible European embargo, Khatibi said in an interview with Shargh newspaper published yesterday.

Counterbalance

Saudi Arabia can “easily” compensate the loss of Iran’s crude production if sanctions are imposed, CNN reported today, citing an interview with the country’s oil minister, Ali Al-Naimi.

Iran yesterday acknowledged receipt of a letter from the U.S. concerning the Strait of Hormuz and will respond if “deemed necessary,” the Islamic Republic News Agency said. Concerns about Iran and the strait have contributed to a 7.5 percent gain in London oil prices in the past month.

Roshan, who was killed in a Tehran bomb blast, was the fourth prominent Iranian scientist to be targeted in similar attacks, Mohammad Khazaee, Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations, said on Jan. 11.

Roshan was a critic of his country’s nuclear program, saying it has led to stricter sanctions and increased poverty, Mohammad-Reza Heydari, who resigned as Iran’s Oslo consul in 2010 and was later granted political asylum, said in a phone interview. Roshan had voiced his concerns about the nuclear program to Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, Heydari said.

Previous attacks against Iranian nuclear scientists include the assassination of Massoud Ali-Mohammadi, killed by a bomb outside his Tehran home in January 2010, and an explosion in November of that year that took the life of Majid Shahriari and wounded Fereydoun Abbasi-Davani, who is now the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization.

To contact the reporters on this story: Ladane Nasseri in Tehran at lnasseri@bloomberg.net; Robert Tuttle in Doha at rtuttle@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at barden@bloomberg.net

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