Iran said Tuesday its former deputy defense minister has disappeared while on a private trip to neighboring Turkey, and Iran's top police chief accused Western intelligence services of possibly kidnapping the official.
Ali Reza Asghari, a retired general in the elite Revolutionary Guards and a former deputy defense minister, had arrived in Turkey on a private visit from Damascus, Syria, the official Islamic Republic News Agency reported Tuesday.
Iran's top police chief, Gen. Esmaeil Ahmadi Moghaddam, said Iran was investigating the fate of Asghari through the Turkish police.
"It is likely that Asghari has been abducted by the Western intelligence services," IRNA quoted the Iranian police general as saying. The general did not elaborate.
Turkey's Foreign Ministry said Monday that the Iranian Embassy there had reported Asghari's disappearance and had asked Turkey's Interior Ministry to investigate.
Meanwhile, ambassadors from the world's major powers met Monday to discuss possible new sanctions against Iran for refusing to suspend uranium enrichment, but differences emerged and an agreement did not appear to be close, diplomats said.
The U.S., Britain and France would almost certainly favor tough new sanctions, but they know they will have to settle for less to ensure that Russia and China, which have close ties to Iran, will not use their veto power in the U.N. Security Council to block a new resolution.
Diplomats from the five permanent Security Council nations and Germany held three rounds of talks over the past week on strengthening sanctions against Iran following a report earlier this month by the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency that Iran was expanding enrichment instead of suspending it.
During a conference call on Saturday, the diplomats decided that Security Council ambassadors should take over the discussion of elements for a new resolution — and the ambassadors held their first meeting late Monday at Britain's U.N. Mission.
China's U.N. Ambassador Wang Guangya, asked afterward by reporters how the meeting went, said there are "some different views here, so we will continue to work." He said the ambassadors would meet again on Tuesday afternoon and then consult with officials in their respective capitals.
Iran's refusal to freeze all its enrichment-related activities prompted the Security Council on Dec. 23 to impose sanctions targeting the country's nuclear and missile programs and the individuals, companies and organizations involved in them. The council gave Tehran 60 days to halt enrichment or face additional nonmilitary measures.
Iran insists its nuclear program is peaceful and aimed solely at producing nuclear energy, but the United States and its European allies believe Tehran's real goal is to produce nuclear weapons.
Tehran says it has the right to enrich uranium under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and has vowed not to stop — which has led the council to consider additional sanctions.
Some diplomats said the new measures may include travel bans, expanding the list of technology and materials countries are banned from making available to Iran, and creating stiffer economic sanctions including a ban on export guarantees to Iran.
Wang said there was no draft resolution yet, only "ideas and elements," but he thought it would involve another 60-day deadline.