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Foreign minister says no trace in Iran of missing ex-FBI agent

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry waves to the crowd after greeting staff at the U.S. Consulate in Ho Chi Minh City December 14, 2013. REUT
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry waves to the crowd after greeting staff at the U.S. Consulate in Ho Chi Minh City December 14, 2013. REUT

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - There are no traces in Iran of the former FBI agent who disappeared there six years ago, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on CBS's "Face The Nation" on Sunday.

Robert Levinson, who became a private detective after retiring from the FBI in 1998, disappeared during a trip to an Iranian island in 2007. The White House says he was not a government employee at the time.

The fate of Levinson is unclear and Zarif told CBS the Iranian government has no idea about his whereabouts.

"What we know is that he is not incarcerated in Iran," Zarif said, adding, "If he is, he's not incarcerated by the government and I believe the government runs the, pretty much, good control of the country."

The Associated Press and the Washington Post on Thursday reported that Levinson was not a private citizen on a business trip to Iran, as the U.S. government has said, but was working for a rogue CIA operation when he disappeared.

Levinson's lawyer, David McGee, told Reuters on Friday that Levinson was investigating allegations of corruption by well-connected people in Iran.

The FBI has offered a $1 million reward for information about Levinson but his family believes the U.S. government has "not acted to its full capacities" in trying to free him, McGee said.

Asked whether Iran would return Levinson to the United States, Zarif said: "If we can trace him and find him, we will certainly discuss this. ... Everything's possible but I'm saying that we have no traces of him in Iran."

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the United States has not abandoned Levinson and that he personally has raised the issue, according to an interview with ABC's "This Week" aired on Sunday.

"We're looking for proof of life," Kerry said, adding that he thought the Iranian government could help find Levinson.

(Reporting by Alina Selyukh; Editing by Bill Trott)

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