Senator: Missing American in secret prison in Iran

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) - A U.S. senator revealed Tuesday that he believes a former FBI agent who disappeared in Iran nearly two years ago is being held in a secret prison there.

Sen. Bill Nelson shed new light on the disappearance of Robert Levinson during a confirmation hearing for Hillary Rodham Clinton in Washington. Levinson, of Coral Springs, Fla., was last seen on Iran's Kish island in March 2007 where he had gone to seek information for a client of his security firm.

Nelson, D-Fla., said the Iranian government has rebuffed numerous requests for information on Levinson's whereabouts.

"The door has been closed at every turn," Nelson said. "We think he is being held by the government of Iran in a secret prison."

Clinton, who is President-elect Barack Obama's choice for secretary of state, said Iran could improve relations with the U.S. by offering information on Levinson, who was an FBI agent in New York and Florida until he retired in 1998.

"With respect to the Floridian who is in prison, it would be an extraordinary opportunity for the government of Iran to make such a gesture to permit contact, to release him, to make it clear that there is a new attitude in Iran," Clinton said during the hearing.

Levinson's wife, Christine, said the comments were the first she had heard about her husband's possible whereabouts.

"I haven't received any information about my husband," she told The Associated Press.

She met with government officials in Iran in December 2007, but there has been no word of his fate.

"I don't understand what happened that I don't have my husband home with me," she said. "I've always believed he's still alive."

Telephone messages left for Nelson aides were not immediately returned. The State Department said the agency continues to urge Iran to increase its efforts in the investigation and provide more information. A spokesman at Iran's U.N. mission wouldn't immediately comment.