An Iranian nuclear scientist (photo, from lemonde.fr) is on his way back to Tehran after a year in the USA, Iran says.
The scientist claims he was abducted by CIA agents last year and taken to the US.
Iranian Foreign Ministry officials claim they have evidence Shahram Amiri was kidnapped. They told state media he had now left the US.
The US state department has insisted he was in the US of his own free will.
Last month, Amiri appeared in three videos giving conflicting stories about how he had arrived in the US.
In the first video he said that he had been kidnapped by CIA and Saudi agents while on a pilgrimage.
In the second message he said he had gone to the US in order to improve his education and was living freely in Arizona.
And in the third video he claimed to have escaped from US custody.
On Monday evening Amiri arrived at the Iranian Interests Section of the Pakistani embassy in Washington, where Iranian affairs are being handled in the US capital. He asked to be repatriated.
Since then, he has renewed his allegations that he was kidnapped, giving more details to the Iranian media.
‘Left American soil’
However in the US, unnamed officials and security sources are claiming that Amiri defected and was put into a kind of witness-protection programme.
US reports claim that he later became concerned for family members he had left behind, had a breakdown and decided to return to Iran, US reports claim.
Foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast was quoted by Iranian media as saying that Amiri would travel back to Iran though a “third country”.
“With the efforts of the Islamic Republic of Iran and effective co-operation of Pakistan’s embassy in Washington, a few minutes ago Shahram Amiri left American soil and is heading back to Iran,” Mr Mehmanparast said.
There are no direct flights from the US to Iran.
Later another foreign ministry spokesman said the scientist would make a stopover in Qatar.
Iran claimed a month ago to have handed evidence to the US that the scientist had been abducted.
The US had repeatedly said it had no information about Amiri.
Although on Tuesday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton acknowledged publicly for the first time that the scientist was in the US, she denied allegations of abduction.
“Amiri has been in the United States of his own free will and he is free to go,” she said.
According to Iranian media reports, Amiri worked as a researcher at a university in Tehran. But some reports say he worked for the country’s atomic energy organisation and had in-depth knowledge of its controversial nuclear programme.