Iran's state television showed a video on Monday of what it said was a missing nuclear scientist declaring he had been kidnapped and taken to the United States where he was "tortured".
Shahram Amiri, a university researcher working for Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation, disappeared during a pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia a year ago and Tehran accused Riyadh of handing him over to the United States.
Saudi Arabia denied the claim, saying the kingdom had "searched in vain" for him on its territory.
"I was kidnapped from Medina in a joint operation by the American intelligence service ... and Saudi Arabia," Amiri said, speaking in Farsi, in the footage which showed him sitting behind a computer wearing headphones.
The man in the video resembled photographs of Amiri that have appeared previously in Iranian media, but it was impossible to verify his identity independently.
Iranian television said the video had been passed to members of the country's intelligence agency. The television said Iranian intelligence services obtained the film "by special methods" without elaborating.
In March, ABC news said Amiri had "defected" to the United States and was helping the CIA. A CIA spokeswoman declined to comment on the U.S. network's report.
"I was given an anaesthetic injection. When I regained consciousness, I was being taken to America. During the eight months that I have been kept here in America, I was subject to severe torture and psychological pressure by the American intelligence ... groups," Amiri said in the video.
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 at my own will."
Amiri said in the video he was in Arizona in the United States and that the footage was taken on April 5 this year. He urged human rights groups to help him go back to Iran.
At a news conference on Tuesday, foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast was asked if Iran would consider a prisoner swap -- requesting Amiri's release in exchange for three Americans arrested near the Iraq border last July.
"We do not think it is the right thing to discuss swapping Shahram Amiri for three Americans who illegally entered Iranian territory," Mehmanparast said.
Shane Bauer, 27, Sarah Shourd, 31, and Josh Fattal, 27, say they strayed over the border while hiking in the mountains of northern Iraq.
Iran's intelligence minister has said he has no doubt they are spies and hinted they could be released in exchange for Iranians held in the United States.
But Mehmanparast said there could be no straight swap in this case. "Shahram Amiri is an innocent Iranian citizen who has been abducted and, inhumanely, is behind bars," he said.
"Unlike the three Americans who have access to the Swiss consulate and to whom the best conditions have been provided, he doesn't have access to a consulate, and from our point of view it is a kidnapping."
Iran has no diplomatic relations with the United States and U.S. interests in Tehran are handled by the Swiss embassy.
AgenciesLast Mod: 09 Haziran 2010, 12:38