- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Is he a fickle defector or an unhidden hostage?

Whichever is true of Shahram Amiri, one thing is certain: He is an international man of mystery.

Monday evening, Mr. Amiri turned up at the Pakistani Embassy in Washington, D.C., saying he wants to return home — to Iran. He is an Iranian nuclear scientist who Tehran says was kidnapped by U.S. agents in Saudi Arabia a year ago.

In a YouTube video, Mr. Amiri himself says he was kidnapped. But in a later video, he says he’s living freely in the U.S. And in a third video, he says, no, he really has been kidnapped.

Mr. Amiri showed up Monday at the Iran Interests Section office on Wisconsin Avenue, where he is seeking refuge. U.S. and Pakistani officials say he is seeking immediate repatriation to Iran.

A researcher of radioactive isotopes at Tehran’s Malek Ashtar University, Mr. Amiri is thought to have in-depth knowledge of Iran’s nuclear program. He disappeared while on a pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia in June 2009.

U.S. officials have denied Iranian charges of abducting the scientist.

In March, ABC News reported that Mr. Amiri had defected and had provided valuable information about the Iranian nuclear program to the CIA.

State Department spokesman Philip J. Crowley said Mr. Amiri has been in the U.S. “of his own free will, and he is obviously free to go.”

“In fact, he was scheduled to travel to Iran yesterday but was unable to make all of the necessary arrangements to reach Iran through transit countries,” Mr. Crowley said, adding that Mr. Amiri traveled to the Iran Interests Section on his own.

The U.S. severed diplomatic ties with Iran soon after the 1979 Islamic Revolution. As a result, the Iran Interests Section is operated under the auspices of the Pakistani Embassy, but the office is run by Iranian diplomats.

Nadeem Kiani, a spokesman for the Pakistani Embassy, noted that the office works independently of his country’s embassy and that its primary purpose is to provide consular services to Iranians.

State Department officials have been in touch with the Pakistani Embassy in connection with Mr. Amiri’s case.

Three videos posted on YouTube in June provided contradictory stories for Mr. Amiri’s presence in the U.S.

In the first clip, a man claiming to be Mr. Amiri said he was kidnapped by U.S. and Saudi agents while on pilgrimage in the Saudi city of Medina and that he now is living in Arizona.

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