WASHINGTON – A leading Iranian nuclear scientist has defected to the United States and is working with the CIA, ABC News reported late Tuesday.
Shahram Amiri, a nuclear physicist in his early thirties, disappeared in June 2009 after arriving in Saudi Arabia on a pilgrimage.
ABC said that US intelligence agents described the defection as "an intelligence coup" in US efforts to undermine Iran's nuclear program.
Amiri's disappearance "was part of a long-planned CIA operation to get him to defect," ABC reported, citing unnamed people briefed on the operation by US intelligence officials.
On October 7, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki charged that there was US involvement in Amiri's disappearance.
"We have obtained documents that show US interference in the disappearance of Shahram Amiri in Saudi Arabia," Mottaki was quoted as saying by Iran's Fars news agency.
Mottaki suggested Amiri had been arrested in Saudi Arabia and the United States was involved.
"We consider Saudi Arabia responsible for the situation of Shahram Amiri and we consider Americans to have been involved in his arrest," Mottaki was quoted as saying by the official IRNA news agency.
The hardline Iranian newspaper Javan (Young), in a mid-October report, described Amiri as a researcher at Tehran's Malek-Ashtar University of Technology.
Javan blamed the Central Intelligence Agency for his disappearance.
US President Barack Obama said Tuesday he wanted tough new United Nations sanctions imposed within "weeks" on Iran over its nuclear enrichment program.
While the United States, Israel and other nations suspect that Iran is trying to develop atomic weapons, Tehran insists its nuclear program is merely designed to meet its domestic energy needs.
© AFP 2013