Obama asks Iran to release American hostage

The White House asked Iran “respectfully” Tuesday to return American Robert Levinson, the longest-held U.S. hostage in history.

Just days after reaching an accord with Iran to lift economic sanctions in return for tighter nuclear inspections, the White House reiterated its commitment “to locate Mr. Levinson and bring him home safely to his family, friends and loved ones.”

“We respectfully ask the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran to assist us in securing Mr. Levinson’s health, welfare and safe return,” the White House said.

Mr. Levinson, 65, a retired FBI agent, disappeared on March 9, 2007, during a business trip to Kish Island, Iran. He was reportedly investigating a case of cigarette smuggling.

His family received a hostage video three years ago and was emailed photographs of him in 2011. In the video, he appeared frail and thinner than when he was taken, and he pleaded for the U.S. government to help secure his release.

In photos, he is shackled and held cryptic messages that his family says they still don’t understand.

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