'Abducted' Iranian Scientist Surfaces In Washington

US State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley briefs reporters at the Department of State July 13, 2010, on missing Iranian nuclear scientist Shahram Amiri, who dramatically turned up at the Pakistan's embassy in Washington.
US State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley briefs reporters at the Department of State July 13, 2010, on missing Iranian nuclear scientist Shahram Amiri, who dramatically turned up at the Pakistan's embassy in Washington. Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images

An Iranian nuclear scientist that Tehran accuses the U.S. of abducting a year ago has taken refuge at Pakistan's embassy in Washington and is asking to be sent home, the State Department confirmed Tuesday.

Shahram Amiri, who disappeared in June 2009 while on a pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia, entered the Pakistani embassy on Monday demanding his "immediate return" to Iran, according to Iranian state television. Pakistan and the U.S. State Department have confirmed the basic details of the report.

Amiri has been in the United States of his accord and is free to go back home, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said. Amiri was scheduled to leave Monday but was unable to make all the necessary arrangements, Crowley said.

Since Amiri went missing a year ago, Tehran has repeatedly accused the U.S. of kidnapping him, a charge Washington denies.

Amiri appeared in a series of videos giving conflicting messages, including one where he claimed he was abducted by American and Saudi agents and taken to the U.S. and another saying he was freely studying in the United States.

In March, American media reported that the 32-year-old scientist had defected to the U.S. and was assisting the CIA in efforts to undermine Iran's disputed nuclear program.

Since the U.S. and Iran severed diplomatic relations in 1980, Pakistan, which maintains an Iranian office in its embassy, has acted as a go-between. Mostafa Rahmani, head of the Iranian office in Washington, said the Iranian TV report was true but would not elaborate. He said Iran's foreign ministry would "release details later."

Pakistan's Foreign Ministry spokesman Abdul Basit said that according to Rahmani, the scientist showed up about 6:30 p.m. Monday at the Iranian interest section office and had stayed there since that time.

"We understand from Dr. Rahmani that they are making arrangements for his repatriation to Iran," Basit told The Associated Press in Islamabad. He did not know when a transfer would occur or whether Pakistan would have a hand in making the travel arrangements.

Before he disappeared, Amiri worked at Tehran's Malek Ashtar University, an institution closely connected to the country's powerful Revolutionary Guard.

Washington accuses Tehran of seeking nuclear weapons but Iran maintains that its nuclear research is for peaceful purposes. The United Nations in early June slapped a fourth round of sanctions on Tehran over its refusal to curtain its nuclear program.

Iran has previously hinted it would trade three American prisoners it has held since last July for a number of Iranians allegedly detained by the United States, including Amiri. An Iranian spokesman later said no such deal was in the works.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. Copyright 2010 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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