Missing ex-FBI man Levinson reported alive

A former FBI agent who vanished on Iran's Kish Island four years ago after travelling from Dubai is being held in southwest Asia, according to the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

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DUBAI // A former FBI agent who vanished on Iran's Kish Island four years ago after travelling from Dubai is being held in southwest Asia, according to the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Bob Levinson flew from Dubai to Kish Island, an Iranian free trade zone, in 2007 to pursue aninvestigation into cigarette smuggling. He never returned.

"We have received recent indications that Bob is being held somewhere in southwest Asia," Mrs Clinton said in a written statement. "We respectfully request the Iranian government to undertake humanitarian efforts to safely return and reunite Bob with his family. We would appreciate the Iranian government's efforts in this matter."

Mrs Clinton's statement did not provide further details as to his believed whereabouts.

Mr Levinson's wife, Christine, greeted the news with cautious optimism.

"Our family is tremendously encouraged by the news Bob is alive but remains concerned for his safety and wellbeing," she said in a statement on the website helpboblevinson.com.

Mrs Levinson last heard from her husband on March 8 before he left Dubai. Mr Levinson, who has diabetes and requiresregular medication, told his wife he would not be able to make contact for 24 hours but would call on his return to Dubai.

He was last seen the following day, the eve of his 59th birthday, getting into a taxi bound for Kish airport after checking out of the Maryam Hotel, located on a quiet stretch of the island.

Mr Levinson had 22 years of experience in the FBI andspecialised in organised crime and money laundering investigations.

He began private investigation work after his retirement from the bureau in 1998.

The FBI said investigations were continuing. "It remains our goal to bring him home safely," said Paul Bresson, an FBI spokesman.

* With additional reporting by Reuters