WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. State Department on Monday said it has urged the family of a former FBI agent who went missing in Iran to think twice about visiting the country, where four other U.S. citizens have been detained this year.
The department said it was up to the family of Robert Levinson, who went missing in March, whether to go to Iran to try to get information about him but advised them to heed U.S. government warnings urging caution about such travel.
In its latest May 31 travel warning, the department said it “continues to warn U.S. citizens to carefully consider the risks of travel to Iran” and notes that dual Iranian and American citizens may have difficulty leaving the country.
Four Iranian Americans have been detained, imprisoned or otherwise barred from leaving the country in recent months in what the U.S. government has described as a “disturbing pattern” of harassment of dual citizens by Iran.
Levinson, a Florida resident who is not one of the four and is not a dual citizen, went missing while on a visit to the Gulf island of Kish in Iran. U.S. officials have said they believe he is in Iran but have no credible information about his whereabouts.
Some published reports have said Levinson traveled to the region to investigate cigarette smuggling.
The United States, which broke diplomatic relations with Iran after the 1979 Islamic revolution, has made repeated inquiries about Levinson’s whereabouts through Swiss diplomats who represent U.S. interests in Tehran.
Iran has said it has no information about Levinson, a response that the State Department has said is not credible.
In a report aired on ABC’s “Good Morning America” program on Monday, Levinson’s wife Christine said she and one of her children may visit Iran to seek information about him if they do not get answers about his whereabouts soon.
“It’s a hard situation,” State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters, summarizing the U.S. advice as “think twice about traveling to Iran, given the current circumstances and the experiences that we’ve had with American citizens being prevented from leaving over the past several months.”
“All of that said, that’s a personal decision that they will have to make. They’re going to have to weigh the risks,” he added.