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No new leads for U.S. man missing in Iran

Christine Levinson is leaving without any word on her husband, who vanished in March.

December 23, 2007|Ramin Mostaghim and Borzou Daragahi | Special to The Times

TEHRAN — The wife of a U.S. businessman and former FBI agent who disappeared nine months ago during a trip to Iran said Saturday that she was leaving the country with no new clues about his whereabouts.

Christine Levinson, wife of private investigator Robert Levinson, arrived in Iran with her son and sister Tuesday to retrace her husband's steps during what was supposed to have been a 24-hour trip in March to the southern Iranian island of Kish.

The Levinson entourage traveled to the island with the help of Iran's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Swiss Embassy, which pursues U.S. interests here in the absence of formal relations between Tehran and Washington.

At a news conference at the Swiss Embassy, Christine Levinson said she found nothing but her husband's signature in the checkout register of the $70-a-night hotel where he stayed.

"We still have no answer to what happened to Bob," she said.

Iranian officials say they don't know where Levinson is or what happened to him. "If new information is given to us on this matter, we will follow up the case," Gholamhossein Elham, spokesman for the government of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, said Saturday in comments published by the official Islamic Republic News Agency.

Robert Levinson came to Iran to investigate the smuggling of contraband tobacco. His wife told reporters she did not know which firm or person had hired him. "It was a confidential contract," she said.

According to several news outlets, Levinson met with a fugitive called Dawud Salahuddin, an American convert to Islam and Iranian resident wanted in the 1980 assassination of an Iranian dissident in Bethesda, Md.

Salahuddin told the Financial Times newspaper and other news outlets that he was sharing a room with Levinson on March 8 when plainclothes Iranian officials arrived and took Salahuddin away for questioning. When he returned, he said, Levinson was gone.

The Iranian officials told him that Levinson had left Iran, according to the account in the British newspaper.

Christine Levinson said she had tried several times to contact Salahuddin but had failed.

daragahi@latimes.com

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Special correspondent Mostaghim reported from Tehran and Times staff writer Daragahi from Beirut.

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