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Wife of longest-held U.S. hostage says Iran's president key to release

Wednesday - 12/4/2013, 7:13am  ET

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The federal government has offered a $1 million reward for tips leading to the safe return of former FBI agent Robert Levinson, who was last seen in Iran in March 2007. (Courtesy of FBI)

WASHINGTON - On Nov. 26, former FBI agent Robert Levinson became the longest held American hostage in U.S. history.

He surpassed the 2,454 days that former Associated Press Bureau Chief Terry Anderson was held in Beirut. But Iran's new reformist President Hassan Rouhani may have the power to end the Levinson family nightmare.

"I think everyone including my family is hopeful because the new administration seems to be more willing to discuss situations that they may be able to help with or resolve, such as the nuclear issues. So I'm hoping that they will resolve Bob's case for us," Levinson's wife Christine told WTOP.

Levinson disappeared from Iran's Kish Island in March of 2007, and since then there has been precious little information on his condition and whereabouts.

"We received a video and photographs of Bob several years ago. Unfortunately, we have no information on what to do to get him home safely," says Christine Levinson.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest released a statement last Tuesday confirming the U.S. government's commitment to finding Levinson, but acknowledged help is needed.

"We welcome the assistance of our international partners in this investigation, and we respectfully ask the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran to assist us in securing Mr. Levinson's health, welfare, and safe return," said Earnest.

The U.S. has said very little else about the situation, except that it's believed that Levinson is being held somewhere in Southwest Asia, which encompasses the Middle East and Iran.

In a posting on the family's website HelpBobLevinson.com, son Dan Levinson wrote that President Barack Obama spoke recently to Rouhani, who indicated a willingness to help develop information about situation.

"The government is doing everything they can to resolve this. They don't have any new information for us. It's a mystery," said Christine Levinson.

That mystery has deepened since she traveled to Iran in December of 2007.

"We really didn't make any progress. We were promised information and that the Iranian government would do an investigation and get back to us with whatever they found. And unfortunately we have never heard anything from them."

Even the FBI, which has been involved from the very beginning of Levinson's disappearance, is at a loss.

"Exhaustive efforts have not yet been successful in locating Bob or establishing a dialogue with those who are holding him, but the FBI remains wholly committed to bringing him home safely to his loved ones," said FBI Director James B. Comey in a statement.

"We will continue to follow every lead into his disappearance, and we ask anyone with information regarding his disappearance to contact the FBI."

Videos and pictures that have mysteriously been emailed to the family have led nowhere.

"Unfortunately, what we try to do is get in touch with the people who have sent these pictures or videos, and we have no gotten answers back," said Christine Levinson.

She appealed to everyone for any information.

"I would hope that they would all encourage anyone who has information to get in touch with the family at the HelpBobLevinson.com website, or get in touch with the FBI or any U.S. office overseas, because we need information. We need to know what to do to find Bob and bring him home safely."

Speculation by U.S. law enforcement experts over the years have suggested that Levinson is in Iranian custody, but no definitive proof has emerged. Regardless of who is holding him, Christine Levinson is hopeful, the ordeal will end soon.

"We're 6 1/2 years going on seven years and now Bob is the longest-held hostage. And I would hope this could be resolved soon. There is absolutely no information about why he's being held, so therefore, there's no reason for him to be held. Whoever is holding him needs to release him and send him home to his family," she said.

The FBI, on the fifth anniversary of his disappearance in March 2012, issued a reward of up to $1 million for information leading directly to the safe location and return of Levinson.

It's still unclaimed.

More information regarding Robert Levinson's case including reward information can be found at www.fbi.gov/levinson. Anyone with information regarding Mr. Levinson or his captors is asked to contact the FBI at Https://tips.fbi.gov. Information will be kept confidential and can be provided anonymously.

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