HEADLINE: Years after vanishing in Iran, US man proven alive
CAPTION: Four years after a retired FBI agent mysteriously vanished inside Iran, U.S. officials have received proof he is alive, a remarkable development that has dramatically intensified secret negotiations to bring him home, The Associated Press has learned. (March 3)
NB. THIS IS A VOICEOVER TRANSCRIPT, NOT A FULL SHOTLIST
NEARLY FOUR YEARS AFTER A RETIRED FBI AGENT MYSTERIOUSLY VANISHED INSIDE IRAN...
U-S OFFICIALS SAY THEY HAVE RECEIVED PROOF HE IS ALIVE.
((Matt Apuzzo/AP Reporter SOT: We never had any evidence about where he was or who was holding him. And now, suddenly, it's Oh my god, he's alive and maybe we can get some help in bringing him home. So suddenly, the U.S. government has kicked into high gear here on this.))
THE STATE DEPARTMENT SAID THURSDAY THAT IT HAS "...RECEIVED RECENT INDICATIONS THAT ROBERT LEVINSON IS BEING HELD SOMEWHERE IN SOUTHWEST ASIA...AND THAT IT IS RESPECTFULLY REQUESTING THAT THE IRANIAN GOVERNMENT UNDERTAKE HUMANITARIAN EFFORTS TO SAFELY REUNITE LEVINSON WITH HIS FAMILY."
AS YEARS PASSED...
MANY IN THE U-S GOVERNMENT BELIEVED THE 63-YEAR-OLD WITH DIABETES AND HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE MIGHT HAVE DIED.
BUT LATE LAST YEAR, LEVINSON'S FAMILY RECEIVED PROOF OF LIFE--
OFFICIALS SAY THEY'VE BEEN ABLE TO DETERMINE IT IS AUTHENTIC AND RECENT.
THE A-P WILL NOT DISCLOSE THE NATURE OF THE PROOF BECAUSE IT DOESN'T WANT TO JEOPARDIZE EFFORTS TO GET LEVINSON BACK HOME.
((SOT: Luanne Wallice, Levinson's neighbor in Fla.: "We've been praying for the family. I'm just so excited, I hope it's true. I haven't heard that or seen anything about it...(then reacts) You're kidding."))
LEVINSON DISAPPEARED FROM THE POPULAR RESORT AREA OF KISH, IRAN BACK IN MARCH 2007...
((Apuzzo SOT: He was at a hotel, he signed the check out book, was supposed to get in a taxi for the airport and never made it there. And nobody has known what happened ever since.))
THE RETIRED FBI AGENT HAD BEEN WORKING AS A PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR...
AND A PROBE INTO CIGARETTE SMUGGLING REPORTEDLY TOOK HIM TO IRAN.
AN IRANIAN DEFECTOR NOW LIVING IN THE U-S TELLS THE AP THAT IRANIAN OFFICIALS BELIEVE LEVINSON WAS INVESTIGATING MONEY LAUNDERING AND HE UNCOVERED A LINK BETWEEN THE RUSSIAN MOB AND THE REVOLUTIONARY GUARD.
HE CLAIMS LEVINSON WAS PICKED UP BY A SPECIAL UNIT OF THE REVOLUTIONARY GUARD AND TAKEN TO A SAFE HOUSE IN TEHRAN.
U-S OFFICIALS SAY THEY WERE NEVER ABLE TO CONFIRM THAT STORY...
THE IRANIAN GOVERNMENT HAS REPEATEDLY DENIED HAVING ANY INFORMATION ABOUT LEVINSON.
IN 2009...SECRETARY OF STATE HILLARY CLINTON ORDERED A FRESH DIPLOMATIC PUSH.
AT A UNITED NATIONS CONFERENCE THAT YEAR, SHE PERSONALLY PASSED A NOTE TO IRANIAN OFFICIALS, URGING THEM TO HELP.
IT REMAINS UNCLEAR WHO EXACTLY IS HOLDING ROBERT LEVINSON.
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