Iran accused Saudi Arabia of handing over Shahram Amiri to the US after he went missing during a pilgrimage to Mecca a year ago. A man purporting to be Amiri subsequently appeared in a series of internet videos. In one, the man said he was studying in the US, while in another a man calling himself Amiri said he was hiding from US agents.
This morning, a spokesman for Pakistan’s ministry of foreign affairs in Islamabad said Amiri had been “dropped off” at the Iranian interests section of the Pakistani embassy in Washington at 6.30pm (11.30pm BST) last night.
“He was dropped there by someone,” said Abdul Basit. “He’s in the Iranian interests section, not in the Pakistan embassy per se. They are making arrangements to repatriate him.”
Because Iran and the US do not have diplomatic relations, Pakistan handles Iranian interests in the US.
The Iranian interests section is in a separate building, about two miles from the Pakistani embassy and is staffed by around eight Iranians. Basit said he did not know how Amiri had got there or how he would be sent back to Iran.
Separately, Iran’s state radio reported today that Amiri was taking refuge and wanted to return to Iran immediately.
Amiri, who works for Iran’s Atomic Energy Organisation, could have valuable information on the progress of Iran’s nuclear programme.
According to some reports, he had defected to the US and was helping the CIA. The US, Britain and other western powers allege that Iran is secretly trying to build nuclear weapons, while Iran insists its nuclear development is for peaceful purposes.
Last month, CIA chief Leon Panetta said Iran had produced enough low-enriched uranium to make two nuclear weapons within two years. On 9 June the United Nations security council approved a fourth round of sanctions against Iran in an attempt to force it to comply with international demands. Iran is alleged to have received technological assistance in the past for its nuclear ambitions from renegade Pakistani nuclear scientist AQ Khan.