Washington • The Obama administration renewed calls for Iran to free retired FBI agent Robert "Bob" Levinson, who on Tuesday reached the grim milestone of becoming the longest-held hostage in U.S. history.
Levinson, now 65, was seized in 2007 from Iran's Kish Island, where he was researching a cigarette-smuggling case as a private investigator. Seizing on signs of a thaw in U.S.-Iranian relations, Levinson's family in Coral Springs, Fla., has issued a flurry of public appeals for his release to newly elected Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who's viewed as a reformist with ambitions of moving Iran away from its status as a pariah state.
The family, sympathetic lawmakers and activists have pushed the Obama administration to include Levinson's ordeal in talks on how to bring Iran back into the international fold, starting with the landmark interim deal reached over the weekend on Tehran's nuclear program. President Barack Obama also raised Levinson's case in his phone call with Rouhani in September the highest level contact between the two countries in 34 years.