Khamenei, Rouhani urge 'punishing' of those behind scientist's killing
President says Israel aims to create 'chaos' by assassinating scientist
Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Rouhani on Saturday called for the "punishing" of those behind the assassination of a top nuclear scientist, adding that his work must be carried forwards.
Khamenei called for "following up on this crime and certainly punishing the perpetrators and those responsible, and ... continuing the scientific and technical efforts of this martyr in all of the fields he was working in," according to a statement on the supreme leader's official website.
"This unparallelled scientist gave his dear and valuable life to God because of his great and lasting scientific efforts, and the high prize of martyrdom is his divine reward," he added.
Fakhrizadeh was "martyred" after being seriously wounded when assailants targeted his car and engaged in a gunfight with his bodyguards outside the capital Tehran on Friday, according to Iran's defence ministry.
The ministry said that the scientist, who headed its reasearch and innovation organisation, died after medics failed to revive him.
The president made the remarks speaking in a meeting of the national Headquarters for the Fight against COVID-19.
Rouhani said that the enemies assassinated a scientist who spent the past months carrying out researches on COVID-19 and making kits for the COVID-19 patients. He added that Martyr Fakhrizadeh helped the country in the path of self-sufficiency to produce medicine and other medical equipment.
The Zionist regime and all hostile countries should know that Iran will rapidly continue its path of progress, President Rouhani said.
"The nation of Iran is smarter than to fall in the trap of the conspiracy set by the Zionists. They are thinking of creating chaos, but they should know that we have read their hands and they will not succeed," Rouhani said in televised remarks, after accusing the Jewish state of being behind Friday's assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh.
Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was "martyred" after being seriously wounded when assailants targeted his car and engaged in a gunfight with his bodyguards outside the capital Tehran on Friday, according to Iran's defence ministry.
"Once again, the wicked hands of the global arrogance, with the usurper Zionist regime as the mercenary, were stained with the blood of a son of this nation," Rouhani said in a statement on his official website.
Iran generally uses the term "global arrogance" to refer to the United States.
Rouhani vowed that his death "does not disrupt" Iran's scientific progress and said the killing was due to the "weakness and inability" of Tehran's enemies to impede its growth.
He offered condolences to "the scientific community and the revolutionary people of Iran."
The defence ministry said that Fakhrizadeh, who headed its research and innovation organisation, died after medics failed to revive him.
Iran's foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Friday that there were "serious indications of an Israeli role" in the assassination.
The United States slapped sanctions on Fakhrizadeh in 2008 for "activities and transactions that contributed to the development of Iran's nuclear programme", and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu once described him as the father of Iran's nuclear weapons programme.
Fakhrizadeh was targeted while travelling near Absard city in Tehran province's eastern Damavand county.
The New York Times said an American official and two other intelligence officials confirmed Israel was behind the attack, without giving further details.
Lebanon's Hezbollah said early Saturday that it "strongly condemns the terrorist operation that led to the martyrdom of the distinguished scientist and university professor Mohsen Fakhrizadeh."
The powerful Shiite movement added that it asks "God Almighty" to elevate him to the highest ranks "alongside his predecessors of martyrs and scholars, especially those who were treacherously martyred at the hands of Zionist and international gangs of murder and terrorism".
The killing of Fakhrizadeh is the latest in a series of assassinations of nuclear scientists in Iran in recent years that the Islamic republic has blamed on Israel.
Former CIA director John Brennan warned on Friday the assassination risked sparking a wider conflagration in the Middle East. "This was a criminal act and highly reckless. It risks lethal retaliation and a new round of regional conflict," Brennan tweeted.
The assassination comes less than two months before US President-elect Joe Biden is to take office.
Biden has promised a return to diplomacy with Iran after four hawkish years under Donald Trump, who withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal in 2018 and began re-imposing crippling sanctions.
Earlier, Chief of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces Major General Mohammad Hossein Baqeri said hard revenge is awaiting murderers of Fakhrizadeh.
Baqeri said once again the cowardly blind terrorists affiliated with the Global Arrogance and the filthy Zionist regime of Israel in a savage act martyred one of the managers in science, research and defense field.
Referring to Fakhrizadeh’s various services and his efforts to bring the country's defense capability to an acceptable level of deterrence, he said despite assassination of Fakhrizadeh was bitter and a heavy blow to defense system of Iran, but the cowardly blind enemies know that the way of martyred Fakhrizadeh will never stop.
US sanctions Chinese, Russian firms over Iran dealings
The US on Friday announced economic sanctions on Chinese and Russian companies that Washington said had supported the development of Iran's missile program.
The four firms, accused of "transferring sensitive technology and items to Iran's missile program," will be subject to restrictions on US government aid and on their exports for two years, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement.
The sanctions, imposed Wednesday, were against two Chinese-based companies, Chengdu Best New Materials and Zibo Elim Trade, as well as Russia-based Nilco Group and Joint Stock Company Elecon.
"We will continue to work to impede Iran's missile development efforts and use our sanctions authorities to spotlight the foreign suppliers, such as these entities in the PRC (China) and Russia, that provide missile-related materials and technology to Iran," Pompeo added.
President Donald Trump withdrew the US in 2018 from the Iran nuclear deal established three years prior under then-President Barack Obama.
Trump has since reimposed crippling sanctions on the Islamic republic in what he calls a campaign of "maximum pressure."
The Trump administration has also since shown its determination to sanction any foreign country or company that does not comply with its Iran policies.
With inputs from IRNA.