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Israel abuzz with spy talk over missing Iranian


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Israel was abuzz with conspiracy theories on Tuesday that its spies could have been behind the mysterious disappearance in Turkey of a senior official from archfoe Iran.

Ali Reza Asghari, a deputy defence minister under Iran's former reformist president Mohammad Khatami, went missing in Istanbul in February three days after checking into a hotel there.

Iran on Tuesday raised the possibility that he was abducted by Western intelligence services, the state IRNA agency reported from Tehran.

"It is possible that the former deputy defence minister, Mr Asghari, was kidnapped by the Western secret services due to his past at the ministry of defence," said police chief Ismaeel Ahmadi Moghadam.

"Police investigations show that he did not leave Turkey and was not in any of the hospitals in that country," he added.

Tehran said on Monday that it had dispatched a team of diplomats to investigate.

"Mr Asghari disappeared during a recent trip to Turkey and the foreign ministry is following the affair, most notably by sending a consular mission," Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki told reporters.

"Iran is demanding explanations from the Turkish authorities."

No official indications of Asghari's whereabouts or the reasons for his sudden disappearance have been given.

But media in Israel have been filled with speculation about his fate.

On Tuesday, Israel ordered security tightened around its diplomatic missions worldwide, army radio reported, over fears that Iran could suspect the Jewish state of being involved in the disappearance.

The top theories discussed by the media in Israel -- all unconfirmed and none officially sourced -- say that its spies, or those of its main ally the United States, could have either snatched Asghari or helped him defect.

A journalist with the Israeli newspaper Maariv and a former agent with the Mossad foreign intelligence agency, Gad Shimron, said Asghari was a former senior official with Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards who had access to information on the country's controversial nuclear programme.

Israel, widely considered the Middle East's sole if unconfirmed nuclear power, accuses Iran of planning to build an atomic bomb, a charge Tehran denies.

In his Revolutionary Guard post, Asghari was also Iran's liaison with the Lebanese Hezbollah militant group and "other terrorist groups," Israeli army radio said.

Asghari was also reportedly in charge of "special missions" carried out by the Revolutionary Guards in Lebanon in 1986, when Israeli airman Ron Arad went missing after ejecting from his plane over the south of the country, the Israeli media said.

Israeli officials have repeatedly said that Iran holds the key to the fate of the airman, who remains missing to this day. Tehran has denied that it has ever held Arad.

The air force navigator went missing after he ejected from a Phantom fighter-bomber during the country's 1975-90 civil war. He was captured by the Shiite movement Amal, headed by Nabih Berri, now speaker of the Lebanese parliament.

Israel engaged in lengthy negotiations for the release of the airman but contact was terminated when the Israeli military bombed the southern Lebanese village of Maydoun in 1996.

There are various scenarios of the circumstances under which communication was lost -- a central one being that Arad was taken by a member of the Amal security service, who transferred him to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, or to parties close to the guard, in exchange for money.

Another is that Arad was turned over to Lebanon's other Shiite movement, Hezbollah, which reportedly held him in the Bekaa Valley. Hezbollah also denies ever holding the airman.

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Seems the Iranians are ****ting themselves:laugh:


"This is a fatal blow to Iranian intelligence," said the source, explaining that Asgari knows sensitive information about Iran's nuclear and military projects. Iran called tens of its Revolutionary Guard agents working at embassies and cultural centers in Arab and European countries back to Tehran out of fear that Asgari might disclose secret information about their identities, according to the analyst.

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