Saudi Arabia denies involvement in killing of Iran nuclear scientist

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RIYADH: A senior Saudi minister on Tuesday lashed out at Iran’s foreign minister for implying Riyadh played a role in the assassination of leading nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh.

Fakhrizadeh was killed on Friday after his car and bodyguards were targeted in a bomb and gun attack on a major road outside the capital Tehran, heightening tensions between Iran and its foes.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Monday said on Instagram that a covert meeting in Saudi Arabia between Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu contributed to the assassination, alleging it was a “conspiracy”.

“Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif is desperate to blame the kingdom for anything negative that happens in Iran,” Adel al-Jubeir, the Saudi minister of state for foreign affairs, wrote on Twitter. “Will he blame us for the next earthquake or flood?”

“It is not the policy of Saudi Arabia to engage in assassinations,” he added.

Unlike other Gulf states, Saudi Arabia –- a Sunni powerhouse locked in a decades-old rivalry with Shiite power Iran –- has not formally condemned the assassination.

Last month, Netanyahu held landmark talks in Saudi Arabia with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, according to Israeli media reports and an Israeli government source.

Netanyahu and Mossad spy agency chief Yosef Meir Cohen met Prince Mohammed, together with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in the planned Red Sea city of NEOM, these sources said.

But Riyadh denied any such meeting took place.

Saudi Arabia has no official diplomatic ties with Israel, but both sides are furtively building relations on the basis of shared animosity towards Iran.

The New York Times said an American official and two other intelligence officials confirmed Israel was behind the attack on Fakhrizadeh.

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani has accused Israel of trying to create “chaos” by assassinating the scientist, but said his country will not fall into a “trap”.

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