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Iranian Nuclear Scientist in Video Riddle

Iran has released a video purporting to back its claim that a nuclear scientist who disappeared a year ago was kidnapped and taken to the United States.

by Alex Spillius

Tehran summoned the Swiss ambassador, who represents US interests in Tehran, on Tuesday and handed over documents which it said showed Shahram Amiri, a university researcher working for Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation, was taken during a pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia and handed to the Americans.

But soon after the Iranian authorities had released grainy footage, supposedly of Mr Amiri, saying he was being held against his well in Tucson, Arizona, another video appeared on YouTube in which what appeared very strongly to be the same man saying he was studying in the southern US state and was in the US of his own free will.

"I am in America and intend to continue my education in this country. I am free here and assure everyone I am safe," he said.

He did not specifically address the abduction allegations, but said he had not taken any action against Iran.

In the video released first, he said he had been forced to take part in an interview "with an American media source to claim that I was an important figure in Iran's nuclear programme and that I had sought asylum in America of my own free will".

The man in both videos looked similar to photographs of Amiri that have appeared previously in Iranian media, although neither of them could be independently verified The strange video war came as the United Nations Security Council prepared to vote on new sanctions against Iran over its clandestine nuclear weapons programme.

US officials have said that Mr Amiri was helpful in providing information on the secret uranium enrichment site near Qom which the Iranians revealed the existence last September under pressure from the West.

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