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Wife of missing ex-FBI agent pleads with Iran

Story Highlights

Exclusive interview with ex-agent's wife conveys her fear and questions
• Christine Levinson says she thinks Robert Levinson is still in Iran
• Levinson met with American fugitive in Iran before he disappeared in March
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The wife of a retired FBI agent who has been missing in Iran for months met with U.S. diplomats in Washington Wednesday.

Christine Levinson is trying find information about Robert Levinson's whereabouts. She told CNN she is convinced her husband is still in Iran, and she has appealed directly to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad through a letter.

"Because he is the president of Iran, he has the ability to get information and help me find Bob and bring him home," she told CNN's Jill Dougherty in an exclusive interview.

Washington, which has no diplomatic ties with Tehran, has made approximately five inquiries about Levinson's whereabouts since he disappeared on March 8, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said Wednesday.

In addition to Levinson, there are three Iranian-Americans who "have had their passports confiscated by Iranian officials and not allowed to leave Iran," McCormack said. "This is of concern to us."

Those Iranian-Americans include two women: Haleh Esfandiari, who runs the Middle East programs for the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, and Parnaz Azima, who works for U.S.-funded Radio Farda. The third person has not been identified. (Watch how detentions are seen as an ominous sign Video)

"These people don't pose any threat to the Iranian regime," McCormack said.

Levinson disappeared during a trip to Kish Island in southern Iran.

His wife said she had no idea what he was doing there, but noted that it was related to his job running a consulting firm.

She told CNN that she believes Levinson met with Dawud Salahuddin, an American fugitive who lives in Iran, shortly before Levinson's disappearance and that a man purporting to be Salahuddin called her "right when he disappeared."

"He said it was going to be fine and he'd [Levinson] be home in a couple days," Christine Levinson said, adding "that's the only contact" she has had from Iran.

Last month, Salahuddin -- known in Iran as Hassan Abdulrahman -- told reporters that he saw Levinson shortly before he disappeared on Kish Island.

Salahuddin said he met Levinson at a hotel on Kish on March 8 in an effort to put Levinson in touch with Iranian authorities to help him investigate cigarette smuggling, as part of his contract work for a tobacco company.

Salahuddin had converted to Islam and was given refuge in Iran after admitting in interviews to killing Ali Akbar Tabatabai, a former Iranian diplomat under the shah, in Maryland in 1980.

He has repeatedly expressed a desire to return to the United States.

Salahuddin said he was detained by Iranian officials in plain clothes and taken away from the room he shared with Levinson to be interrogated about his Iranian passport.

When he was freed the next day, he said, he was told by officials that Levinson had returned to Dubai.

His story matches accounts that friends of Levinson's tell. They say Levinson feared he would be arrested after his meeting with Salahuddin.

Senior administration officials told CNN that they believe Salahuddin met with Levinson, but do not believe him to be a credible source of information on Levinson's whereabouts.

These officials said they suspect Iranian authorities have seized Levinson and are holding him in a jail inside the country.

However, they stress they have no information confirming their suspicions and voiced frustration with the lack of developments in the case.

At Wednesday's briefing, McCormack said one of the last communications that Washington has had with Tehran via other governments dealt with news reports that Levinson was detained by Iranian security forces -- reports, he added, that cannot be validated.

"We included that by way as saying, 'Well, look, you say there's no information. This might be something that provides you a lead,' " the spokesman said.

Christine Levinson said the ordeal has been a nightmare for her and the couple's seven children.

She expressed no interest in the details of her husband's work running a consulting firm, noting that his previous job as an FBI agent took him to dangerous countries.

Levinson retired from the agency about 10 years ago and was not involved in intelligence matters with the bureau, officials have said.

This time, she said, "I just think he was in the wrong place at the wrong time."

The Levinsons' 33rd wedding anniversary is Friday

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Christine Levinson, the wife of an ex-FBI agent, says her husband went missing in Iran in March and she is sure that he is still there.

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