NYT: Pakistan Says Iran Scientist in U.S. Flees to its Embassy

 Stills from footage of "Mr Amiri"

 ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — In the latest twist in a murky tale, Pakistan said on Tuesday that an Iranian nuclear scientist who Tehran says was kidnapped by the Central Intelligence Agency has taken refuge in the Iranian interests section of the Pakistani Embassy in Washington. Iranian officials were “making arrangements for his repatriation,” said Abdul Basit, a spokesman at the Pakistan Foreign Ministry. It was not clear how or when the scientist would leave the country.

The scientist, Shahram Amiri, 32, vanished during a pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia in June 2009. He had worked at Iran’s Malek Ashtar University, which is linked to the powerful Revolutionary Guards. The United States government has never acknowledged Mr. Amiri’s existence, or admitted to a role in his disappearance.

“He is not in the Pakistani Embassy, per se,” Mr. Basit said. “He is at the Iranian interests section, which is manned by Iranian nationals.” He added: “We understand that they are making arrangements for his repatriation.”

He declined to comment on how the Iranian scientist entered the mission section and denied that the incident could strain relations between Iran and Pakistan.

Earlier on Tuesday, Press TV, an Iranian state-run broadcaster, said Mr. Amiri had “reportedly taken refuge in Iran’s interest section in Washington, urging an immediate return to the country.” Iran’s interest section is linked to the Pakistani Embassy, just as the United States maintains a similar status at the Swiss Embassy in Tehran. Iran and the United States severed diplomatic ties after the 1979 revolution.

The development was the latest in a series of confusing statements concerning the scientist.

In June, Iran publicized what it called a videotaped statement from Mr. Amiri purportedly proving its claim about the scientist’s disappearance. But a second videotape posted on the Internet showed a man who identified himself as the scientist claiming to be studying in the United States. If the Iranian version is true, it is not clear how the man escaped his alleged captors to reach the Pakistani Embassy. If the second version is accurate, it is not clear why he would want to escape, or whether he had been taken under duress.

In the first video in June, Press TV said on Tuesday, Mr. Amiri said that he was abducted “in a joint operation by terror and kidnap teams from the U.S. intelligence service, C.I.A.” and from Saudi intelligence.

Press TV said the Iranian Foreign Ministry had handed over to Swiss diplomats in Tehran “new documents related to the abduction of the Iranian national by the C.I.A.” and called for Mr. Amiri’s “swift and unconditional release.” The broadcaster quoted an “audio message obtained by Iran’s intelligence sources” as saying he had been offered $10 million “to appear on CNN and announce that he had willingly defected to the United States.” Iranian media have also said that a former Iranian deputy defense minister, Alireza Asgari, was abducted during a trip to Turkey in 2007. The two videos released in June served to deepen the mystery.

The first blurry Iranian video showed a man identified as the scientist, wearing a T-shirt and talking in Farsi through a computer phone connection, who said he was captured, taken to a house in Saudi Arabia and given an injection. He awoke on a plane bound for the United States.

The second video, released shortly afterward on YouTube, showed a young man in a suit who said he was Mr. Amiri, insisting that he was free and safe in the United States, working on a Ph.D. He said he had no interest in politics or experience in nuclear weapons programs.


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