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Iranian Scientist Said to Request Repatriation

An Internet video supposedly showing missing Iranian nuclear physicist Shahram Amiri

An Internet video supposedly showing missing Iranian nuclear physicist Shahram Amiri

A man who Iran claims is a missing nuclear scientist has turned up at the Iranian interests section of the Pakistani embassy in Washington. Pakistani foreign ministry spokesman Abdul Basit said Iranian officials were arranging Shahram Amiri's repatriation to Iran. It is not clear how the story will develop.

His whereabouts at first were a mystery. Iranian nuclear physicist Shahram Amiri disappeared in June of last year. Then the mystery got murkier, a series of Internet videos offering disjointed clues.

"I was kidnapped in the Holy City of Medina," said a man claiming to be Amiri.

Did U.S. agents take him in Saudi Arabia, as someone claiming to be Amiri said?

"I managed to run away," he said in a video.

Had he escaped from American intelligence as another posting hinted?

"I am in America and intend to continue my education in this country," he said in another video.

Or was Amiri actually free and safe, pursuing studies in the U.S. as yet another revealed.

Iran says he was kidnapped by the U.S. The U.S. says he defected to America.

And, in still another new twist, Amiri has turned up here - at the Iranian interests section of the Pakistani Embassy in Washington, where he is reportedly requesting repatriation. Pakistan has managed Iran's interests in the U.S. since Washington severed diplomatic ties after the 1979 Islamic revolution.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says Amiri was scheduled to return to Iran on Monday, but was unable to make travel arrangements.

"Mr. Amiri has been in the United States of his own free will," said Hillary Clinton. "And he is free to go."

Amiri had been working for Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, which the U.S. and other countries suspect is trying to develop nuclear weapons, a charge Iran denies. He reportedly had valuable information on nuclear development.

Alex Vatanka from the Middle East Institute doubts that.

"In terms of access to Iranians, particularly that generation of Iranians in their 30s, is very hard to get to, and this is, in many ways, a win for the U.S.," said Alex Vatanka. "But if he didn't have the kind of information they needed, what's the point in keeping him?"

U.S. State Department Spokesman P.J. Crowley says Amiri met with authorities while in this country, but wouldn't say if the Iranian gave up any secrets.

"I can't answer that question," said P.J. Crowley.

"But why can't you answer that question," asked a reporter.

"I happen not to know the answer," said P.J. Crowley.

Some analysts think Amiri's return could mean an exchange for Americans held in Iran.

"It will be interesting to see, perhaps in years and months to come, if what's happening right now with Amiri has anything to do for instance, with the three [American] hikers who have been held in Iran for about a year now," said Vatanka.

Vatanka says the truth behind the mystery lies in what happens to Amiri in the future. How will Iran treat him if he is a defector who changed his mind and returned home?

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    Carolyn Presutti

    Carolyn Presutti is an Emmy and Silver World Medal award winning television correspondent who works out of VOA’s Washington headquarters. She has also won numerous Associated Press TV, Radio, and Multimedia awards, as well as a Clarion for her TV coverage of The Syrian Medical Crisis, Haiti, The Boston Marathon Bombing, Presidential Politics, The Southern Economy, Google Glass & Other Wearables, and the 9/11 Anniversary.