'Kidnapped' nuclear scientist 'provided information to Iran on CIA'

Semi-official Iranian news agency says Shahram Amiri's spy story will be made into a TV movie.

TEHRAN // An Iranian nuclear scientist who returned home last week from the United States provided valuable information to Iran's intelligence service about the CIA, a semiofficial news agency reported today, adding that his tale would be made into a TV movie. American authorities have claimed Shahram Amiri willingly defected to the US but changed his mind and decided to return home without the US$5 million he had been paid for what a US official described as "significant" information about his country's disputed nuclear programme.

The Fars news agency quoted an unidentified source as saying that Iran's intelligence agents were in touch with Mr Amiri while he was in the US and that they won an intelligence battle against the CIA. Iran has portrayed the return of Mr Amiri as a blow to American intelligence services which, it says, were desperate for inside information on Iran's nuclear programme. Iran has sought to make maximum propaganda gains from the affair, allowing journalists to cover Amiri's return, sending a senior Foreign Ministry official to greet him and preparing to make a movie about the story.

"This was an intelligence battle between the CIA and us that was designed and managed by Iran," the source was quoted as saying. "We had set various goals in this battle and, by the grace of God, we achieved all our objectives without our rival getting any real victory." Mr Amiri claims he was kidnapped by American agents in May 2009 while on a pilgrimage to holy sites in Saudi Arabia. The Fars report suggests Mr Amiri had been planted to discover how much information the US had gathered about Iran's nuclear programme, which Washington believes is aimed at weapons production. Iran says its nuclear work is only for energy production and other peaceful purposes.

The source told Fars: "We sought to obtain good information from inside the CIA. While Amiri was still in the US, we managed to establish contact with him in early 2010 and obtained very valuable information accordingly. He was managed and guided [by us]." The source said Mr Amiri provided more information after his return to Iran last week. "Iran's intelligence agencies now possess valuable details from inside the CIA, which is a great victory," it said.

To support the claim, the source mentioned the licence plate numbers of two cars used by the CIA in Virginia, claiming that some CIA locations, individuals and contacts have been identified. The source also claimed that the CIA has been blackmailed by various sources, including Iran's opposition group the People's Mujahideen. Fars also reported that an Iranian film company affiliated with Iran's state television plans to produce a TV movie about Mr Amiri's case.

Amir Hossein Ashtianipour, director of Sima Film, was quoted by Fars as saying that a group of young graduates have been hired to write the script. AP