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Relatives of missing Iranian general accuse US of kidnap

Robert Tait
London Guardian
Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Claims by western intelligence to have scored a coup by securing the defection of a senior Iranian general were contradicted yesterday by the man's relatives, who claimed he had been kidnapped by US or Israeli agents.
Relatives of Ali Reza Asgari, an Iranian former deputy defence minister who disappeared during a trip to Turkey, said reports that he had fled to the west were "lies". They said he would never have spied on Iran or abandoned his family.

Their appearance, outside the Turkish embassy in Tehran, seemed to counter speculation that General Asgari had arranged for his family to move to the west.
Media reports based on unnamed intelligence sources have suggested that he is cooperating with western agencies after escaping from Iran because he feared his cover as a mole was about to be blown.He was said to have fled to the Syrian capital, Damascus, and then to Istanbul after securing the escape of 10 relatives. However, Gen Asgari's wife, Ziba Ahmadi, emerged with his brother and three of his children to talk to reporters. They said all the general's close relatives remained in Iran. "We are here in Iran and have not gone anywhere," said Mrs Ahmadi. "These are enemies' rumours. My husband did not have any problems with Iran that would have led him to seek asylum. The person who wants to seek asylum first takes his family with him."

Gen Asgari has two wives. However, his brother, Davoud, said: "His wives, children, father and brother are all in Iran."

Mrs Ahmadi said Gen Asgari went missing on December 9, contradicting reports that he disappeared last month. His trip has been depicted as part of an elaborate escape operation. However, his wife said he went to attend to business interests.

· Gen Asgari's relatives spoke after meeting Devrim Ozturk, Turkey's chargé d'affaires in Tehran.



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