Former Iranian Defense Minister Defecting to U.S.

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Former Iranian Defense Minister Defecting to U.S.

Postby IPC » Thu Mar 08, 2007 5:00 pm

Former Iranian Defense Minister Defecting to U.S.
FOX News,2933,257482,00.html

Former Iranian Defense Minister Defecting to U.S.
Wednesday, March 07, 2007

TEHRAN, Iran — The mystery of a missing former Iranian deputy defense minister deepened Wednesday with the report by an Arab newspaper that he is being interviewed somewhere in northern Europe before defecting to the U.S.

Retired Revolutionary Guards general Ali Reza Asghari disappeared in Turkey nearly a month ago and reportedly hopes to seek asylum in the United States, according to a report in the London-based al-Sharq al-Awsat.

The newspaper quoted senior Iranian sources as saying Asghari is headed for the United States "along with the secrets he carried."

A Senior U.S. official told FOX News that Asghari is not in CIA hands but said that it's a "mystery" why he disappeared "and the U.S. intelligence community is seeking more clarity."

Al-Sharq al-Awsat reported that Asghari is being questioned by intelligence personnel before being transferred to the United States.

Asghari was supposed to arrive at an Istanbul hotel nearly a month ago after being in Damascus but several reports said he never arrived.

top police chief said Tuesday he thought Asghari was abducted by Western intelligence services, an Iranian news agency reported.

Iran's top police chief, Gen. Esmaeil Ahmadi Moghaddam, said Iran was investigating the fate of Asghari through the Turkish police.

"It is likely that Asghari has been abducted by the Western intelligence services," IRNA quoted the Iranian police general as saying. The general did not elaborate.

In Turkey, the Interior Ministry said Tuesday it was investigating the matter, but would not confirm or deny that Asghari had disappeared or been kidnapped.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry had asked the Interior Ministry to investigate following a report from the Iranian Embassy in Ankara.

Other reports from the Arab media suggested that the Mossad — the Israeli intelligence service — and the CIA were behind Asghari's disappearance. Israel has denied involvement in the general's disappearance, but The Daily Telegraph newspaper in London speculated that Asghari could have been abducted by Israel to shed light on the whereabouts of missing Israeli Air Force pilot Ron Arad, who Israel has claimed might have been held at one point by Iran.

It's been widely reported that Asghari was involved in a deal with Hezbollah guerrillas to transfer Arad to the Iranians in exchange for a large sum of money.

Fearing that Iran might try to kidnap senior Israeli officials who are traveling abroad, Israeli security officials were evaluating and adjusting security arrangements for certain officials visiting non-Western and Muslim countries, according to Israeli media reports.

The Shin Bet, the agency in charge of providing security for Israeli officials, said: "We formulate our security arrangements according to developments in the field and intelligence information."

Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki was quoted Monday as saying that Iran was "taking all the necessary steps" to solve the case of the missing general.

"A director-general from the (foreign) ministry has traveled to Turkey (to follow up the case). We have asked Turkey to investigate Asghari's case," said Mottaki.

FOX News' Catherine Herridge and the Associated Press contributed to this report.
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