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Iran's Foreign Ministry on Tuesday blamed Israel and the United States for the killing of a pro-reform nuclear physics professor in an explosion outside his Tehran home earlier in the day.

Iran's Foreign Ministry said Tuesday it had evidence that the bomb-rigged motorcycle which blew up outside Massoud Ali-Mohammadi's home was planted by Israeli and American "agents."

"In initial investigations, there are some indications of vices of the Zionist regime, the U.S. and their mercenaries in Iran in the terrorist incident," ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast was quoted as saying in the report.

Ali-Mohammadi publicly backed opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi in the disputed June presidential election, and Iranian pro-reform Web sites prior to the contentious government elections had listed his name among a list of 240 Tehran University teachers who supported the opposition.

"The assassination of Mr. Massoud Ali-Mohammadi, a nuclear scientist and a committed and revolutionary Tehran University professor, was detonated by a remote control," state broadcaster IRIB said on its website Tuesday morning.

"As a result of the bomb planted by Zionist and American agents two cars and a motorcycle were severely damaged and the windows in the surrounding residential units were shattered," it said. Iran usually refers to Israel as the "Zionist regime."

A U.S. official rejected as "absurd" the Iranian accusations that the United States had a role in the killing of the nuclear scientist.

"Charges of U.S. involvement are absurd," said a U.S. State Department official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Ali-Mohammadi "was martyred this morning in a terrorist act by anti-revolutionary and arrogant powers' elements," IRIB said on its website. Iran usually refers to its Western foes as "the global arrogance."

The incident occurred at a time of heightened tension in the Islamic Republic, seven months after a disputed presidential election plunged the country into turmoil.

Iran has seen its most serious domestic unrest since the Islamic revolution in 1979, as opposition supporters stage protests against the election result that have turned violent.

Authorities deny opposition charges that voting was rigged.

Eight people were killed in clashes between security forces and opposition supporters on Ashura, the day of ritual Shi'ite Muslim mourning that fell on Dec. 27.

'No link' to nukes

A spokesman for Iran's atomic agency, Ali Shirzadian, told The Associated Press that Ali Mohammadi had no link with the agency. "He was not involved in the country's nuclear program," Shirzadian said, adding that the professor was active only in the theoretical field at Tehran University.

Ali Mohammadi was a member of some academic associations focusing on experimental science, and a government news Web site called Borna described Ali Mohammadi as a senior nuclear scientist but gave no other details.

In 1992, he received the first doctorate in nuclear physics to be awarded in Iran, from Tehran's Sharif University of Technology.

Mehmanparst, the Foreign Ministry spokesman, said the killing of nuclear scientists cannot thwart the country's scientific and technological progress.

Iran also directed suspicion at the exiled opposition group the People's Mujahedeen Organization of Iran. One conservative Iranian Web site close to the ruling establishment said the group carried out the attack under direction of Israeli agents.