Thu, Jul 15, 2010 - Page 6 News List

‘Abducted’ scientist leaves US for Iran

AP AND AFP , TEHRAN

Iran says the Iranian nuclear scientist who sought refuge in the Pakistani Embassy compound in Washington has left the US and is on his way home to Tehran.

Iran’s foreign ministry says the scientist, Shahram Amiri, would fly home yesterday, traveling through a third country. Hassan Ghashghavi, with the Iranian Foreign Ministry, says Amiri was expected to arrive early today in Tehran. He says the scientist would make a stopover in Qatar.

Iran has claimed that Amiri, who disappeared while on a pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia last year, was abducted by US agents.

Washington denied the allegation amid speculation and US media reports that he had defected to the US. Amiri surfaced on Monday evening at the Pakistani embassy.

His case could embarrass US efforts to gather intelligence on Tehran’s suspected nuclear weapons program.

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,” Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast was quoted as saying by ISNA news agency.

Repeating accusation that Amiri was kidnapped by US agents, Mehmanparast said Iran would continue to pursue his case “legally and diplomatically.”

US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham 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 officials confirmed on Tuesday that they had been in touch with Amiri since his arrival in the US.

US State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said Amiri “has been here for some time, I’m not going to specify for how long, but he has chosen to return.”

“The United States government has maintained contact with him,” he told reporters.

Crowley refused to comment on whether Amiri had provided the US with intelligence but said US officials had been in contact with him.

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 program.

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 soon after he reached the Interests Section.

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