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U.S. offers $5 million for missing American, appeals to Iran

WASHINGTON: The United States offered $5 million on Monday for help in finding an American who disappeared in Iran eight years ago and appealed to Tehran to cooperate in the search for the former FBI agent, Robert Levinson.

“We ask the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran to work cooperatively with us on the investigation into Robert Levinson’s disappearance so we can ensure his safe return,” Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement.

The White House National Security Council said it was “committed to the safe return of Bob Levinson to his family.”

Levinson disappeared from Kish Island, an Iranian resort in the Gulf, on March 9, 2007, while on a business trip as a private investigator. His friends said he had been investigating illicit trafficking in cigarettes, mainly in Latin America.

Levinson traveled to Kish to meet Daoud Salahuddin, an American wanted in the murder of an Iranian diplomat in a Washington suburb in 1980. Levinson’s friends have said he believed Salahuddin had information on corruption in Iran. Salahuddin has denied knowing what happened to Levinson.

Levinson’s wife, Christine, told Reuters on Monday she had no new details about her husband’s status.

She said the last hard information she received indicating he was alive were pictures emailed to her in April 2011 and a video sent in November 2010.

In the 2010 video, Levinson asked for help but did not say who was holding him or where he was. Iranian authorities have repeatedly denied knowing Levinson’s whereabouts.

“All I know is that I want Bob home safely,” Christine Levinson said.

The FBI has been investigating Levinson’s disappearance, offering a rare $1 million reward in 2012 for information that could lead to his safe return before increasing it on Monday.

In December 2013, the Associated Press and Washington Post reported Levinson was working for a rogue CIA operation when he disappeared.

Current and former U.S. officials acknowledged to Reuters that Levinson was a source for the CIA at that time. However, officials said his arrangement with the CIA’s analysis division, which is not authorized to handle informants, violated agency rules. Some CIA officers faced discipline following an internal investigation, officials familiar with the matter said.

The CIA declined to comment.

The latest U.S. plea for Iran’s help in finding Levinson comes as world powers try to reach a deal with Iran over its nuclear program.

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