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Iranian Missing In Turkey Sparks Spy Snatch Talk

Ali Reza Asghari has gone missing while in Istanbul.
by Staff Writers
Ankara (AFP) March 06, 2007
Mystery swirled on Tuesday over the disappearance of a senior Iranian official in Turkey, with accusations in Tehran he was snatched by Western spy agencies and even the Israeli media suggesting it may have been the work of their own Mossad. Ali Reza Asghari, a former deputy defence minister said to have information about Iran's nuclear programme, went missing in Istanbul in February shortly after checking into a luxury hotel, press reports said.

"It is possible that the former deputy defence minister, Mr Asghari, was kidnapped by the Western secret services due to his past at the ministry of defence," said Iranian police chief Ismaeel Ahmadi Moghadam.

"Police investigations show that he did not leave Turkey and was not in any of the hospitals in that country," he was quoted as saying by the IRNA news agency.

Tehran said on Monday it had dispatched a team of diplomats to investigate the affair.

"Mr Asghari disappeared during a recent trip to Turkey and the foreign ministry is following the affair, most notably by sending a consular mission," Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki told reporters.

"Iran is demanding explanations from the Turkish authorities."

No official indications of Asghari's whereabouts or the reasons for his sudden disappearance have been given, with the Turkish authorities keeping a lid on the affair.

But media in Israel have been awash with speculation about the fate of Asghari, who served under Iran's reformist former president Mohammad Khatami.

On Tuesday, Israel ordered security tightened around its diplomatic missions worldwide, army radio reported, over fears that Iran could suspect the Jewish state of being involved in the disappearance.

The top theories discussed by the media in Israel -- all unconfirmed and none officially sourced -- say that its spies, or those of its main ally the United States, could have either snatched Asghari or helped him defect.

A journalist with the Israeli newspaper Maariv and a former agent with the Mossad foreign intelligence agency, Gad Shimron, said Asghari was a former senior official with Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards who had access to information on the country's controversial nuclear programme.

Israel, widely considered the Middle East's sole if unconfirmed nuclear power, accuses Iran of planning to build an atomic bomb, a charge Tehran denies.

In his Revolutionary Guard post, Asghari was also Iran's liaison with the Lebanese Hezbollah militant group and "other terrorist groups," Israeli army radio said.

Asghari was also reportedly in charge of "special missions" carried out by the Revolutionary Guards in Lebanon in 1986, when Israeli airman Ron Arad went missing after ejecting from his plane over the south of the country, the Israeli media said.

Israeli officials have repeatedly said that Iran holds the key to the fate of the airman, who remains missing to this day. Tehran has denied that it has ever held Arad.

The air force navigator went missing after he ejected from a Phantom fighter-bomber during Lebanon's 1975-90 civil war. He was captured by the Shiite movement Amal, headed by Nabih Berri, now speaker of Lebanon's parliament.

Israel engaged in lengthy negotiations for the release of the airman but contact was terminated when the Israeli military bombed the southern Lebanese village of Maydoun in 1996.

There are various scenarios of the circumstances of his loss -- one being that Arad was taken by an Amal member, who transferred him to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, or to parties close to the force, in exchange for money.

Another is that Arad was turned over to Lebanon's main Shiite movement, Hezbollah, which reportedly held him in the Bekaa Valley. Hezbollah also denies ever holding the airman.

earlier related report
Israel abuzz with spy talk over missing Iranian
Jerusalem (AFP) March 6 - Israel was abuzz with conspiracy theories on Tuesday that its spies could have been behind the mysterious disappearance in Turkey of a senior official from archfoe Iran. Ali Reza Asghari, a deputy defence minister under Iran's former reformist president Mohammad Khatami, went missing in Istanbul in February three days after checking into a hotel there.

Iran on Tuesday raised the possibility that he was abducted by Western intelligence services, the state IRNA agency reported from Tehran.

"It is possible that the former deputy defence minister, Mr Asghari, was kidnapped by the Western secret services due to his past at the ministry of defence," said police chief Ismaeel Ahmadi Moghadam.

"Police investigations show that he did not leave Turkey and was not in any of the hospitals in that country," he added.

Tehran said on Monday that it had dispatched a team of diplomats to investigate.

"Mr Asghari disappeared during a recent trip to Turkey and the foreign ministry is following the affair, most notably by sending a consular mission," Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki told reporters.

"Iran is demanding explanations from the Turkish authorities."

No official indications of Asghari's whereabouts or the reasons for his sudden disappearance have been given.

But media in Israel have been filled with speculation about his fate.

On Tuesday, Israel ordered security tightened around its diplomatic missions worldwide, army radio reported, over fears that Iran could suspect the Jewish state of being involved in the disappearance.

The top theories discussed by the media in Israel -- all unconfirmed and none officially sourced -- say that its spies, or those of its main ally the United States, could have either snatched Asghari or helped him defect.

A journalist with the Israeli newspaper Maariv and a former agent with the Mossad foreign intelligence agency, Gad Shimron, said Asghari was a former senior official with Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards who had access to information on the country's controversial nuclear programme.

Israel, widely considered the Middle East's sole if unconfirmed nuclear power, accuses Iran of planning to build an atomic bomb, a charge Tehran denies.

In his Revolutionary Guard post, Asghari was also Iran's liaison with the Lebanese Hezbollah militant group and "other terrorist groups," Israeli army radio said.

Asghari was also reportedly in charge of "special missions" carried out by the Revolutionary Guards in Lebanon in 1986, when Israeli airman Ron Arad went missing after ejecting from his plane over the south of the country, the Israeli media said.

Israeli officials have repeatedly said that Iran holds the key to the fate of the airman, who remains missing to this day. Tehran has denied that it has ever held Arad.

The air force navigator went missing after he ejected from a Phantom fighter-bomber during the country's 1975-90 civil war. He was captured by the Shiite movement Amal, headed by Nabih Berri, now speaker of the Lebanese parliament.

Israel engaged in lengthy negotiations for the release of the airman but contact was terminated when the Israeli military bombed the southern Lebanese village of Maydoun in 1996.

There are various scenarios of the circumstances under which communication was lost -- a central one being that Arad was taken by a member of the Amal security service, who transferred him to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, or to parties close to the guard, in exchange for money.

Another is that Arad was turned over to Lebanon's other Shiite movement, Hezbollah, which reportedly held him in the Bekaa Valley. Hezbollah also denies ever holding the airman.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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US Demands North Korea Come Clean About Uranium Program As Talks Continue
New York (AFP) March 06, 2007
The United States demanded Tuesday that North Korea come clean about its controversial highly enriched uranium program as the arch rivals ended landmark talks setting the pace for normalizing ties. US Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill said North Korea reportedly made "massive purchases of expensive equipment" from Pakistan's once-dreaded A.Q. Khan illicit nuclear network to drive the highly enriched uranium program.







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