Iran mulls response as it prepares to bury slain nuclear scientist

TEHRAN: Iran was weighing its response on Sunday to the killing of its top nuclear scientist, which it blames on Israel, as his body was taken to shrines ahead of being buried. Two days after Mohsen Fakhrizadeh died following a firefight between his guards and unidentified gunmen outside Tehran, parliament called in a statement for international inspectors to be barred from nuclear facilities.
Iran’s Supreme National Security Council usually handles decisions related to the country’s nuclear programme.
President Hassan Rouhani has stressed the country will seek its revenge in “due time” and not be rushed into a “trap”.
Israel says Fakhrizadeh was the head of an Iranian military nuclear programme, the existence of which the Islamic republic has consistently denied.
His body arrived in the northeastern city of Mashhad late on Saturday and was taken to the shrine of Imam Reza for prayers and a ceremonial circling of the tomb, state news agency IRNA reported.
Then they were taken on Sunday to Fatima Masumeh’s shrine in Qom, south of Tehran, and later to that of the Islamic republic’s founder Imam Khomeini, according to Iranian media.
Fakhrizadeh’s funeral will be held on Monday in the presence of senior military commanders and his family, the defence ministry said on its website, without specifying where.

‘STRONG REACTION’
Israel has declined to comment on Fakhrizadeh’s killing, less than two months before US President-elect Joe Biden is set to take office following four years of hawkish foreign policy under President Donald Trump.
Trump withdrew the US from a multilateral nuclear agreement with Iran in 2018 and then reimposed and beefed up punishing sanctions as part of its “maximum pressure” campaign against Tehran.
Biden has signalled his administration may be prepared to rejoin the accord, but the nuclear scientist’s assassination has revived opposition to the deal among Iranian conservatives.
On Sunday, Iran’s parliament held a closed session to “investigate the assassination,” ISNA news agency reported.
Speaker Mohammad-Bagher Ghalibaf called on Sunday for “a strong reaction” that would “deter and take revenge” on those behind the killing of Fakhrizadeh, who was aged 59 according to Iranian media.
In an op-ed on Sunday, the Kayhan daily called for strikes on Israel if it is “proven” to be behind the assassination.
It called for the port city of Haifa to be targeted “in a way that would annihilate its infrastructure and leave a heavy human toll”.
That will “certainly achieve deterrence, since the US and the Zionist regime … are in no way ready to fight a war,” it added.
The United States slapped sanctions on Fakhrizadeh in 2008 for “activities and transactions that contributed to the development of Iran’s nuclear programme”.
— AFP