World News

Missing Iranian official was kidnapped: relatives

TEHRAN (Reuters) - The relatives of an Iranian ex-deputy defense minister who went missing in Turkey accused Iran’s arch enemies the United states and Israel of kidnapping him, state radio reported on Monday.

Iran’s police chief has suggested that Ali Reza Asgari, who disappeared after checking into an Istanbul hotel on February 7., was kidnapped by Western intelligence. Israel and the United States have denied any involvement in his disappearance.

“Personally I am sure that Iran’s main enemies America and Israel have kidnapped my father,” Asgari’s daughter Elham told state radio after lodging a complaint at the Turkish embassy in Tehran over Asgari’s disappearance.

“As a loyal servant of the (1979 Islamic) revolution my father had many enemies,” Elham added.

Turkish newspapers reported Asgari had information on Iran’s nuclear program, which the United States and Israel say is aimed to build atomic weapons. Iran insists its atomic plans are peaceful.

Turkish, Arabic and Israeli media have suggested that Asgari had defected to the West, perhaps with his family.

“These rumors are spread by Iran’s enemies. He has not asked for political asylum and will never do,” his wife, Ziba Ahmadi, said.

“He was doing business in olive oil in Syria and was so dependent on his family. He would have taken us if he wanted to defect.”

Ahmadi said her husband was on a personal trip and vanished after arriving in Turkey from Damascus on December 7, giving a different date to the February 7 cited by Turkish media and Iran’s police chief.

A former official with Israel’s foreign spy service Mossad had said Asgari had been a commander of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards, the main sponsor of Shi’ite guerrilla group Hezbollah.

The group is one of Israel’s toughest regional enemies and is listed on the U.S. State Department’s terrorist watch list.

Asgari’s wife said :”We have never been in Lebanon”.

She also called on Turkish officials to follow her husband’s case “seriously”. “We hold Turkey responsible because my husband went missing in Turkey,” she added.

Turkey is one of the few Muslim countries to maintain ties with Iran and Israel, which Tehran refuses to recognize.