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American Family Appeals to Iran for Answers on Missing Man

By David McKeeby, Staff Writer,

Officials urge Tehran to honor pledge to aid probe into disappearance

American businessman Robert Levinson, last seen on Kish Island, Iran, in March 2007

Washington - As Americans look forward to celebrating the holidays with their loved ones, a Florida family is struggling to cope with the absence of one of their own - Robert Levinson, an American businessman whose March 2007 disappearance in Iran remains shrouded in mystery.

"It has now been 20 months since Bob - a wonderful husband and loving father - disappeared on Kish Island, Iran," wrote Levinson's wife, Christine, in a November 20 statement on the family's Web site. "We will never stop looking for him. We just want him home."

Levinson, a retired FBI special agent working as a private security consultant, visited the Gulf resort March 8, 2007, as part of a business-related trip to Iran.  He is believed to have held several meetings at the Maryam Hotel and checked out the following day, but never arrived in Dubai on a previously scheduled flight as planned.

While the United States has not had formal diplomatic relations with Iran since 1979, Washington has repeatedly appealed for assistance, sometimes through the Swiss Embassy in Tehran, which long has acted as an intermediary between the two nations. Iran has refused access to Swiss investigators and claims to have no information on Levinson's fate.

"The U.S. Department of State remains committed to determining Mr. Levinson's whereabouts and returning him safely to his family," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters November 21.  "We once again urged Iran to share any and all information uncovered about the Levinson case, and we ask anyone else who may have information about the case to contact us or the Levinson family via their Web site."

An American Gone Missing in Iran: Interview with Christine Levinson about her husband's case and the family's ordeal

Iranians are famous for being very hospitable people. There is a saying in Persian that says guest is God's friend. So the disappearance of Robert (Bob) Levinson, an American on a private visit to the Kish island in Persian Gulf, is quite surprising, disturbing and mind-boggling. -, 07/02/08

In December 2007, Mrs. Levinson traveled to Iran, where officials pledged to investigate the matter - a promise repeated by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in a July 28, 2008, interview with NBC News, where he said that Tehran is willing to cooperate with the FBI in the search for Mr. Levinson.  Since then, the family has not received any further information from the Iranian government, says Mrs. Levinson, who has also offered a $5,000 reward for information leading to her husband's safe return.

"I think the Iranian government still has it within its power to help with more information concerning Mr. Levinson," McCormack said. "We, the family, the U.S. government - we're always looking for ways to maybe break loose that vital piece of information or vital lead that may help us."

There is no record of Mr. Levinson's leaving the island or evidence indicating that he used his passport or credit cards after March 9, according to FBI officials working with the State Department to gather information regarding the missing businessman.

"This is a matter of great concern for the FBI," says FBI Assistant Director Joseph Persichini Jr. "Bob had a long and distinguished FBI career, and he has a wife, four daughters, three sons, one grandchild and another on the way, all awaiting his return. Plain and simple, our goal is to bring Bob home to his family."

Mrs. Levinson and her family have worked tirelessly to publicize the case, staging memorial rallies, giving numerous interviews, meeting with top U.S. officials and even traveling to New York City in September in hopes of appealing directly to Ahmadinejad to honor his previous promise to support the investigation during his appearance at the 2008 U.N. General Assembly.  While Ahmadinejad refused to meet with the Levinson family, U.S. Representative to the United Nations Zalmay Khalilzad welcomed them, pledging Washington's continued commitment to the case and asking other countries to join in urging Iran to provide answers.

The Levinson family has also found a strong advocate in Florida Senator Bill Nelson, who recently introduced a congressional resolution calling attention to the case. "Despite the grave differences we have with Iran, discussions with Tehran are vital to ensure the safe return of an American citizen," Nelson said in a November 19 speech introducing the measure.

The Levinsons plan to travel to Washington early in 2009 to urge lawmakers to support the resolution, which will be making its way through the halls of Congress as a new presidential administration - which has indicated willingness to reassess relations with Iran - takes office.

While Mrs. Levinson worries for her husband's health - her husband suffers from diabetes and high blood pressure - she says she feels confident that he is safe, and says that occasionally she still calls his voice mail message just to hear his voice.

"I still firmly believe he is alive," she said in a September 23 interview with CNN. "Every day, I tell my children to take things one day at a time."

About U.S. State Department's Bureau of International Information Programs (IIP) engages international audiences on issues of foreign policy, society and values to help create an environment receptive to U.S. national interests.

... Payvand News - 11/27/08 ... --

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