Iran Has No Trace of Missing American: Zarif
TEHRAN (Tasnim) – Iran’s foreign minister said the country has no information about an American national who vanished seven years ago, stressing that he is not in Iranian custody.
In a Sunday interview with CBS News from Tehran, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif made it clear that Robert Levinson, a retired FBI agent who is said to have disappeared in Iran's island of Kish in 2007, is not incarcerated by the Islamic Republic.
“We know that he is not incarcerated in Iran. If he is, he is not incarcerated by the government and I believe the government runs a pretty much good control of the country,” Zarif explained.
If he was ever found, Zarif said, the Iranians would certainly discuss whether they would return him to the US.
“Everything’s possible, but I’m saying that we have no traces of him in Iran,” the Iranian minister added.
Earlier in the day, Alireza Miryousefi, the spokesman for Iran’s UN mission in New York, urged the US administration to provide explanation regarding the mission of Levinson on the Iranian soil, after his connection with the CIA was earlier disclosed by the American media.
“Actually the American authorities should explain about Levinson’s mission in Iranian soil. They are responsible and should respond,” Miryousefi told the AP.
The Islamic Republic has been trying “to find any clue about Levinson’s situation for humanitarian and security reasons, but so far to no avail,” he added.
“We also provided all possible assistance to his family. Unfortunately this is another case of US scandal.”
According to articles published in recent days by some American news outlets, Levinson worked as a CIA contractor for several years after retiring from the FBI. He reported to officials in the analysis division, who do not have authority to run intelligence gathering operations. His chief contact at the agency knew in advance of his trip to Iran, the articles say.
After Levinson disappeared, CIA officials initially told Congress that he had not been working for them. Senior officials at the agency discovered what had happened only after people close to Levinson contacted members of Congress with evidence of his ties to the CIA. Eventually, several agency officials were forced to resign over the affair, all of which remained secret until recently.
Levinson was at first said to have been investigating cigarette counterfeiting as a private detective when he went missing. His family received images of him in April 2011, in which he had a long grey beard and was wearing an orange jumpsuit, and looking emaciated.
The family also received a video in November 2010, which they released in December 2011 to try to aid the investigation. Investigators traced the phone used to send the photographs to Afghanistan, but the phone's owner was not involved. The video was sent from a Pakistan internet cafe.