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Missing Iranian scientist leaves United States for Tehran

Video by Josh Vardey

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2010-07-14

Iranian nuclear scientist Shahram Amiri (pictured), who alleges he was abducted and held by the United States for over a year, is reportedly now on his way back to Tehran.

AFP - Iranian nuclear scientist Shahram Amiri, who surfaced in Washington more than a year after Tehran claimed he was abducted by US spies, is on his way home, the foreign ministry said on Wednesday.
   
Before leaving Washington where he took refuge on Tuesday in Iran's Interests Section office, Amiri told Iranian Press TV channel he will reveal the details of his "ordeal" to local media on reaching Tehran.
   
"A few moments ago, Shahram Amiri left US soil ... for Iran following efforts taken by the Islamic Republic of Iran and the effective cooperation of the Pakistani embassy in Washington," foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast was quoted as saying by ISNA news agency.
   

He said Amiri was first headed to a "third country" from where he would continue to Iran, adding that the head of the Iran Interests Section in Washington, Mostafa Rahmani, saw him off.
   
Repeating accusations that Amiri was kidnapped by US agents, Mehmanparast said Iran would continue to pursue his case "legally and diplomatically."
   
Amiri disappeared from Saudi Arabia in May 2009, sparking accusations by Iranian officials that he was kidnapped by the US Central Intelligence Agency.
   
Washington denied the allegations amid speculation and US media reports that he had defected to the United States and was working with the CIA.
   
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told reporters on Tuesday there was nothing stopping Amiri returning to Iran.
   
"He's free to go. He was free to come. These decisions are his alone to make," she said.
   
But in a twist to the bizarre saga which has baffled the media for several months, US State Department spokesman Philip Crowley confirmed on Tuesday that the US government had been in touch with Amiri in the United States.
   
Amiri "has been here for some time, I'm not going to specify for how long, but he has chosen to return," Crowley told reporters, adding that "the United States government has maintained contact with him."
   
Crowley refused to comment on whether Amiri had provided the United States with intelligence.
   
Alaeddin Borujerdi, an influential Iranian lawmaker, told ISNA that US officials had tried to get information out of Amiri, but "his information was confined to his expertise."
   
"When the Americans realised that they had made a mistake, the situation quickly changed," he said.
   
Amiri's saga has been tied to growing international pressure over Tehran's controversial nuclear programme, which Iran says is for peaceful purposes but many nations fear masks a weapons drive.
   
Prior to his disappearance, Amiri worked in Tehran's Malek Ashtar University of Technology, which is believed to be close to Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards, the elite force whose several commanders and companies are targets of UN sanctions.
   
US television network ABC first reported Amiri's defection in March and quoted officials saying it was an "intelligence coup" in efforts to undermine Iran's nuclear programme.
   
Amiri himself has insisted US agents had kidnapped him.
   
"My abduction is a detailed story," he told Press TV channel in an interview given in Washington on Tuesday.
   
Amiri said he will reveal the details of his abduction to the Iranian media on reaching home.
   
"When I am hopefully in my dear country Iran, I can speak to the media and my own people with ease of mind and tell them about my ordeal over the past 14 months, incidents that have been a mystery to many," he said in remarks posted on the channel's English website.
   
"In Iran, I will thoroughly clarify the allegations made by foreign media and the US government which, in fact, have targeted my reputation."
   
Borujerdi, meanwhile, ruled out any possible exchange of detainees between US and Iran following Amiri's exit from the United States.
   
"There is no question of an exchange. If an exchange has to take place, the fate of all those (Iranian) people in America abducted by US intelligence should be clarified," he said.
   
Iran maintains that around 10 Iranian nationals are still being held in the United States "illegally."
   
On Tuesday, Clinton renewed calls for the release of three young Americans held in Iran since last year after allegedly straying into the country during a hiking trip.

Date created : 2010-07-14

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