Last update - 12:52 08/03/2007

Missing Iran ex-defense official said to be giving West info on Hezbollah

By Reuters

WASHINGTON - A former Iranian deputy defense minister who went missing in Turkey was giving Western intelligence agencies information on Lebanon's Hezbollah and Iran's ties to the group, the Washington Post reported.

Citing a senior U.S. official, the Post said in its Thursday edition that Ali Reza Asghari, who disappeared while on a trip to Turkey last month, had left his country and was willingly cooperating.

Iran has suggested he was kidnapped by Western intelligence

Another U.S. official denied an Israeli newspaper report that Asghari was in the United States and suggested that his disappearance was orchestrated by Israel, the Post said. It said a representative of the White House National Security Council did not return a call for comment.

It quoted Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev as saying: "To my knowledge, Israel is not involved in any way in this disappearance."

Asghari, who was responsible in the 1980s and early 1990s for the Iranian Revolutionary Guards in Lebanon, is best known to Israel as an instrumental founder of Hezbollah, a retired Israeli spy said on Wednesday.

A British newspaper has reported that Asghari is likely to possess information on missing Israel Air Force navigator Ron Arad.

Asghari is not being questioned about Iran's nuclear program, a major point of dispute with the United States, the Post said.

It said the senior U.S. official did not disclose Asghari's whereabouts or specify who is questioning him, but said the United States has full access to information obtained from Asghari.


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