U.S. steps up pressure on Iran over missing ex-FBI agent

McClatchy NewspapersDecember 3, 2009 

WASHINGTON — The White House and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton upped the pressure Thursday on Iran to divulge any information it has about Robert Levinson, a retired FBI agent who went missing from a Persian Gulf island in March 2007.

The statement from the White House came as the Coral Springs, Fla., man's family marked the 1,000th day of his disappearance with meetings at the State Department and the FBI. National Security Adviser James Jones also met with the family "to reassure them that Bob's case remains a priority for the United States," the White House said.

The FBI and the State Department called for cooperation, with the FBI — the lead agency that investigates the disappearances of Americans overseas — saying that it has "not received any information from Iranian authorities to date."

Clinton echoed Gibbs' remarks and said that although Iranian authorities had promised the family that they'd share information about the investigation, "that promise has yet to be fulfilled."

The U.S. also is pressing Iran to release three American hikers who were detained after they apparently crossed an unmarked border from Iraq into Iran in July. Further, it's asked Iran to release retired Iranian-American businessman Reza Taghavi, who was arrested in May 2008, and Iranian-American scholar Kian Tajbakhsh, who was detained after last June's disputed presidential election.

Levinson's wife, Christine, said she was hoping that a recent request by the Iranian government for information about her husband was a positive sign. The government asked her what her husband was doing on Kish, the resort island in the Persian Gulf where he was last seen. It also wanted to know whether he had a satellite phone and who'd paid for his trip. She said she told the government that Levinson was investigating cigarette smuggling for a client of his security firm.

She said she was still paying his cell phone bill, hoping that he'd use it one day to call home.

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