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Wednesday, September 22, 1999 Published at 15:29 GMT 16:29 UK

World: Europe

Airport exile reluctant to leave

Mr Nasseri finally received travel documents last week

The man who spent 11 years waiting at an airport for his travel documents now appears reluctant to face the outside world once more.

Iranian exile Mehran Karimi Nasseri, 54, last week received the papers which would allow him to get past the immigration authorities at Roissy-Charles de Gaulle airport near Paris.

But after more than a decade on a plastic bench next to a pizza outlet, the dream of freedom seems to have lost its allure for Mr Nasseri.

"He no longer wants to leave the airport," his lawyer Christian Bourguet said in an interview.

"He's scared of going."

The airport authorities tolerated Mr Nasseri's presence during his years in the departure lounge.

Sympathetic staff bought him food and allowed him to use airport washing facilities and medical personnel kept an eye on his health.

Mr Nasseri occupied his time taking correspondence courses delivered to him care of the airport post office.

Search for mother

Mr Nasseri - known to the airport staff as Sir Alfred in reference to his supposed British ancestry - settled at the airport after a fruitless quest to find his mother.

He first left Iran for the United Kingdom in 1974, believing his mother to be British or possibly Danish.

But returning to Iran in 1976, he was stripped of his citizenship for having taken part in demonstrations calling for the overthrow of the Shah who ruled Iran at the time.

He spent time in Germany, the Netherlands and finally Belgium, which issued him with documents attesting that he was a stateless person.

Mr Nasseri says these documents were stolen in Paris in 1988.

He attempted to re-enter Britain, but was turned back.

Apart from a spell in a French prison for having no fixed address and no papers, he has lived at the airport ever since.

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