WASHINGTON, Jan. 19 (UPI) -- A White House spokesman says U.S. officials believe missing former FBI agent Robert Levinson is no longer in Iran.
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest made the remark Tuesday during a press briefing in Washington D.C., saying officials "have reason to believe that [Levinson] is no longer is in Iran, and that's why we continue to press for information about his whereabouts."
Levinson, 67, reportedly went missing on the Iranian island of Kish in 2007 while working as a CIA contractor. Iranian officials deny any knowledge of his whereabouts, and despite the FBI offering a $5 million reward for information leading to Levinson's return, U.S. officials have said they are unsure if he is still alive.
The comment comes three days after five Americans being detained by Tehran were exchanged in a prisoner swap for seven Iranians. The exchange came as the European Union and United States began lifting economic sanctions on Iran as part of a nuclear accord reached last year.
"One of the things that was actually secured in this agreement was a specific commitment from the Iranians to help us locate Mr. Levinson," Earnest said, later adding that U.S. negotiators will use "the channel that has now been opened to secure the release of those individuals that we know are being held by Iran unjustly ... to try to gather info about Mr. Levinson's possible whereabouts."