Missing Iran scientist turns up in Washington

A missing Iranian nuclear scientist, who Tehran says was kidnapped by the CIA, has turned up at the Iranian interests section of Pakistan’s embassy in Washington, DC, and wants to return home immediately.

Shahram Amiri, a researcher who vanished during a pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia a year ago, appeared at the office on Monday after contradictory videos on the internet said he had been abducted, was studying in America and then had fled US agents.

“He is not in the Pakistan embassy per se. He’s in the Iranian interests section,” Pakistani Foreign Ministry spokesperson Abdul Basit told Reuters in Islamabad on Tuesday.

“Our embassy has got in touch with the head of the Iranian section … and they told us they are making arrangements for his repatriation to Iran,” he said, without elaborating.

It was not clear if Amiri, in his thirties, sought refuge at the interests section or had been handed over by US officials.

Iran accuses the US and Saudi Arabia of abducting Amiri, who worked for Iran’s Atomic Energy Organisation. US and Saudi officials have denied the accusation.

Iran is locked in a fierce dispute with the US and its allies over Tehran’s nuclear development programme, which the West says is designed to produce nuclear weapons and which Iranian officials say aims to generate power.

Iran’s state radio said earlier on Tuesday: “He [Amiri] wants to be returned to Iran immediately.”

Iran and the US severed diplomatic ties shortly after the country’s 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Under the umbrella of the Pakistani embassy, the interests section, which is staffed by Iranians, looks after Iran’s interests in the US and provides consular services including information on travel visas.

‘Intelligence victory’
Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency said Amiri was handed over to the embassy by US agents, calling it a victory over “America’s intelligence services”.

“Because of Iran’s media and intelligence activities, the American government had to back down and hand over Amiri to the embassy on Monday night,” Fars said.

Officials at the State Department and at the Pakistan embassy in Washington were not available for comment.

Iran summoned the Swiss ambassador to Tehran earlier this month and handed over documents that it said showed Amiri had been kidnapped by the US. US interests in Tehran are handled by the Swiss embassy.

Confusing video footage of Amiri was aired in the past weeks. In one video, a man identified as Amiri said he was taken to the US and tortured.

In another video on the internet, a man also said to be the scientist said he was studying in the US.

In a third video, a man describing himself as Amiri said he had fled from US “agents” and was in hiding, urging human rights groups to help him to return to Iran.

In March, ABC news said Amiri had defected to the US and was helping the CIA. Before Amiri disappeared, he also worked at Iran’s Malek Ashtar University, an institution closely connected to the country’s elite Revolutionary Guards.

Tehran initially refused to acknowledge Amiri’s involvement in Iran’s nuclear programme.

Three months after Amiri’s disappearance, Iran disclosed the existence of its second uranium enrichment site, near the central holy Shi’ite city of Qom, further heightening tension over the Islamic state’s atomic activities.

Iranian authorities have repeatedly accused the US of kidnapping and illegally detaining Iranians, including a former deputy defence minister who disappeared in 2007.

Some Iranian media have linked the fate of three US citizens, arrested near the Iraqi border a year ago where they said they were hiking and held on suspicion of spying, to the case of alleged Iranian detainees in the US.

But Iranian authorities ruled out the possibility of any prisoner exchange. — Reuters

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