Shot Iranian said to be nuke expert
Vienna - A man shot dead on a Tehran street by motorcycle-riding gunmen last weekend was a scientist involved in suspected Iranian attempts to make nuclear weapons and not a student as officially claimed, a foreign government official and a former UN nuclear inspector have told The Associated Press.
The man was shot on Saturday by a pair of gunmen firing from motorcycles in an attack similar to recent assassinations of two nuclear scientists that Iran blames on the US and Israel.
State-run media initially identified him as Darioush Rezaei, a physics professor and expert in neutron transport, but backtracked within hours, with officials subsequently naming him as Darioush Rezaeinejad, an electronics student.
An official - from a member nation of the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency - verified that the victim was named Darioush Rezaeinejad, but said he participated in developing high-voltage switches, a key component in setting off the explosions needed to trigger a nuclear warhead.
An abstract seen by the AP and bearing the name Darioush Rezaeinejad as a co-author appears to back that claim.
Two other men, both of them nuclear scientists, were killed last year by assassins on motorcycles.
While the possibility remained that there may be two Darioush Rezaeinejads, a senior Western diplomat in Vienna said the three assassinations, as well as the "back and forth by the Iranians" on the latest victim's identity, had sharpened suspicions in his capital of a possible cover-up.
He asked for anonymity because he was relaying confidential information.
Iran denies it seeks nuclear weapons and insists its activities are geared only to generate fuel for a future reactor network and other peaceful purposes.
The official described Rezaeinejad as a physicist who had worked in the past for the Iranian defence ministry on projects linked to nuclear weapons development, including the switches.
He asked for anonymity because his information was privileged.
Rezaeinejad succeeded on his project, according to an abstract of an article he co-authored three years ago and presented to the 16th Conference of Iranian Power Engineering.
News of the claimed success has apparently not been previously reported. If accurate, it would move Iran a step closer to the technology needed to set off a nuclear explosion.