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Parviz Tanavoli greets his two daughters after arriving in Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C. on July 18, 2016.

John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail

When Parviz Tanavoli returned to Vancouver, he hugged his wife and children, greeted friends and supporters who had come to the airport to welcome him, and told reporters he still wasn't sure why his passport had been seized in Iran nearly two weeks ago – making it temporarily impossible for him to leave the country.

But far from being reluctant to go back, Mr. Tanavoli said he planned to continue his regular visits to Iran, where he has a home, a studio and students, and where he spent his most recent, unplanned sojourn working on a new sculpture.

"I have to go back – I have a studio house, I have a lot of unfinished work, I have to go back," Mr. Tanavoli told reporters at Vancouver International Airport on Monday, shortly after arriving on a flight from Tehran. "I will go back."

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Mr. Tanavoli, 79, a dual Canadian-Iranian citizen who divides his time between Iran and his home in Horseshoe Bay, B.C., is widely regarded as Iran's most significant modern sculptor. The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and London's Tate Modern, among others, have collected his work, and one of his bronze sculptures sold for $2.8-million (U.S.) in 2008 in Dubai.

Earlier this month, he was headed from Tehran to London to speak about his new book, European Women in Persian Houses. But his passport was seized July 2 at the airport, resulting in anxiety for him and his family and questions to Iranian authorities from supporters.

By Monday, that anxiety had given way to relief and the passport seizure appeared to be the result of a misunderstanding.

Iranian officials told the family that someone who had a grudge against Mr. Tanavoli persuaded a police contact to detain him at the airport, Tandis Tanavoli, one of his three children, said at the airport in Vancouver.

When authorities reviewed the complaint – which was related to allegations that Mr. Tanavoli's work was "disturbing public opinion and spreading falsehoods" – it was determined to be unfounded and the sculptor's passport was returned, she said.

The complaint turned out to be "completely bogus" and authorities are looking into it, she said.

She added that the family believes it knows the identity of the person who made the complaint but have been asked by Iranian authorities not to make that information public.

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During the time Mr. Tanavoli was without his passport, he was free to move around as he wished, but the anxiety and uncertainty took a toll.

"There are all kinds of guesses, all kinds of accusations – it wasn't a healthy life," he said.

He was greeted at the airport by his wife, Manijeh, and his three children.

The family had earlier planned to gather in Vancouver this month to celebrate their first arrival in the city on July 22, 1989.

None of Mr. Tanavoli's family members were surprised that he had worked during his unplanned stay in Tehran – or that he planned to return.

"I am going to be there with him; he has lots of fans and supporters," Ms. Tanavoli, his daughter, said.

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Mr. Tanavoli has clashed with Iranian authorities before. In 2003, he sold his home and nearly 60 pieces of his artwork to the city of Tehran so it could be turned into the Museum of Parviz Tanavoli.

But shortly after Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was elected mayor, he ordered the museum closed.

Canada closed its embassy in Tehran and expelled Iran's diplomats from Ottawa in September, 2012, over concerns such as the country's nuclear program.

The federal Liberal government has said it will re-establish relations with Iran and reopen an embassy.

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