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Iran: West May Have Kidnapped Missing Former Official

A top Iranian police official says Western intelligence agents may have kidnapped a former Iranian senior official who disappeared while visiting Turkey last month.

Iran's official news agency (IRNA) quoted police chief Ismail Ahmadi-Moghaddam as saying it is possible that former deputy defense minister Ali Reza Asghari was kidnapped "because of his defense background."

Asghari has been missing since early February after checking into an Istanbul hotel.

The Iranian police chief says that Asghari has been missing since the third day of his visit to Turkey and says that police investigations show he did not leave Turkey and was not hospitalized.

Iran has asked Turkey to investigate the disappearance.

Israeli newspapers report that some Arab diplomats accuse Israeli and American intelligence services of kidnapping Asghari.

A senior Israeli defense official, quoted in the Israeli newspaper Ma' ariv Monday, denied that Israel kidnapped Asghari in Turkey.

Israeli and European media say Asghari played a military role in Lebanon in the 1980s when an Israeli airman, Ron Arad, bailed out over southern Lebanon. The airman is still missing, and Israel maintains that Iran holds the key to his fate.

Some Turkish newspapers report that the missing official had a role in Iran's nuclear program, but did not give a source for that information.

Major powers suspect Iran of developing nuclear weapons, a charge Tehran denies.

The United States and Israel have said it is unacceptable for Iran to have nuclear weapons.

Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said that Israel should be "wiped off the map."

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.