Iran sees U.S. role in researcher's disappearance

Iran accused the United States on Wednesday of involvement in the disappearance of a technology university researcher "rumored" to be involved in Tehran's nuclear program, Reuters reported according to Iranian media.

ISNA news agency referred to "some rumors that Shahram Amiri, who went missing during a pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia in June, was an employee of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization who wanted to seek asylum abroad.

Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki did not confirm that when he made the allegation against the United States, which suspects the Islamic Republic is seeking to develop nuclear weapons. Iran denies the charge.

"We have found documents that prove U.S. interference in the disappearance of the Iranian pilgrim Shahram Amiri in Saudi Arabia," he told reporters, according to the website of state Press TV, without giving details.

U.S. State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said, "We saw that wire story, and we looked into it.

"We just basically don't have any information on this individual," Kelly told reporters.

Press TV said Amiri was a researcher at Tehran's Malek Ashtar University, but did not give details. It quoted his wife as saying he had not contacted his family except for a few phone calls he made at the beginning of his trip.

Malek Ashtar University is involved in the implementation of "special national research projects" and has faculties in aerospace, electrical engineering and other topics, according to the university's website.

Amiri disappeared more than three months before the disclosure of a second uranium enrichment facility that Iran has been building near the city of Qom.

The underground plant was kept secret until Iran disclosed its existence last month. Diplomats say it did so after learning Western intelligence services had discovered the site.

In 2007, Iran's police chief suggested that an Iranian former deputy defense minister, Ali Reza Asgari, who disappeared in Turkey that year had been kidnapped by Western intelligence. Israel and the United States have denied any involvement in the disappearance.

At the time, Turkish newspapers reported that Asgari had information on Iran's nuclear program. Turkish, Arabic and Israeli media have suggested Asgari defected to the West, but his family dismissed that.

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