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Abducted Iran scientist leaves US for Tehran by Jay Deshmukh

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 today.

world Updated: Jul 14, 2010 13:40 IST

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 accusation 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 Central Intelligence Agency.

Washington denied the allegations amid speculation and US media reports that he had defected to the United States. 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 officials confirmed on Tuesday that they had been in touch with Amiri since his arrival in the United States.

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 United States 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 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 soon after he reached the Interests Section.

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."

Amiri's saga has been tied to growing international pressure over Tehran's controversial nuclear programme, which Iran says is for peaceful purpose, but many nations fear masks a weapons drive.

In June several Internet videos emerged featuring a man purporting to be Amiri who claimed to have escaped from US agents in Virginia.

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.

First Published: Jul 14, 2010 13:34 IST