TEHRAN (Reuters) – An Iranian nuclear scientist who disappeared more than a year ago and mysteriously turned up in Washington is on his way back to Iran via a third country, Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman said on Wednesday.
“With the efforts of the Islamic Republic of Iran and effective cooperation of Pakistan’s embassy in Washington, a few minutes ago Shahram Amiri left American soil and is heading back to Iran via a third country,” he was quoted as saying by the semi-official news agency ISNA.
He did not name the country. Another Iranian official on Tuesday said Tehran could enlist Turkey’s help to return Amiri to Iran.
Ramin Mehmanparast said the foreign ministry would pursue the case through legal and diplomatic channels regarding the part the U.S. government played in what Iran says was Amiri’s abduction.
Iran is locked in a dispute with the United States and its allies over Tehran’s nuclear development programme that the West says is designed to produce nuclear weapons and which Iranian officials say aims to generate power. Iran has repeatedly accused the CIA of abducting Amiri, who worked for Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization. The United States has not explained how Amiri got there but denies kidnapping him and says he is free to leave.
Amiri, who went missing during a pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia more than a year ago, appeared on Tuesday at the Iranian interests section of the Pakistani embassy, which represents Iran in the United States because Tehran and Washington have no diplomatic relations.
A man identifying himself as Amiri has variously said in recent videos that he was kidnapped and tortured; that he was studying in the United States; and that he had fled U.S. agents and wanted human rights groups to help him return to Iran.
Amiri was quoted by Iranian state TV on Tuesday as saying “my kidnapping was a disgraceful act for America.”
The mystery surrounding Amiri fueled speculation that he may have information about Iran’s nuclear programme sought by U.S. intelligence. In March, ABC News reported that Amiri had defected and was helping the CIA.