Iran says fate of missing diplomat in Saudi Arabia still unclear (Exclusive)
Baku, Azerbaijan, Nov. 3
By Umid Niayesh, Temkin Jafarov - Trend:
Iran cannot confirm or reject speculation about the fate of its senior diplomat, Ghazanfar Roknabadi, who is still missing following the deadly stampede in Saudi Arabia's Mecca on Sept. 24, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister for Consular Parliamentary and Expatriates Affairs Hassan Qashqavi told Trend Nov. 3.
He underlined that Tehran is carefully following news about the fate of its missing pilgrims, including Roknabadi.
Roknabadi, 49, who was attending the annual Muslim gathering, is among 28 Iranians who remain missing following the stampede, which killed at least 460 of the Islamic republic's citizens.
An eyewitness, who is now in Iran, saw Roknabadi alive and being transferred to an ambulance, Qashqavi said, saying he was alive but not able to talk.
His remarks are the most recent reliable information, after which no news about Roknabadi's situation or whereabouts was received, the top Iranian diplomat added.
Iran has submitted a letter to the Saudi embassy in Tehran to seek clarification about the fate of Iran's missing pilgrims, including Roknabadi, Qashqavi emphasized.
"If we don't see someone's body, we can not confirm his death", added Qashqavi.
Since no body has been identified as Roknabadi, various possibilities can be raised about the issue, Qashqavi added.
He further noted that no witness can reject or confirm claims about the possibility of Roknabadi being kidnapped.
Until last year, Roknabadi was Tehran's envoy to Beirut, which is a highly sensitive post.
Iran has rejected some media reports, suggesting that Roknabadi travelled to Saudi Arabia using a false name.
Earlier the Saudi Alarabiya TV quoted Saudi sources as saying the official records show that the name of the former Iranian ambassador to Beirut does not appear among this year's pilgrims.
If his presence during the pilgrimage is confirmed, that would mean that he has entered the country in an "unknown manner," possibly registering with a different name and description, according to the sources.
Last September, Iran's Culture Ministry Spokesman Hossein Noushabadi became one of the first Iranian officials to directly speak of the possible abduction of Roknabadi during the September 24 crush in Mina, saying he has surely been abducted if he is still alive.
"That the Saudis deny the presence of Roknabadi in their country shows that they are lying; they certainly know the whereabouts of important figures like Roknabadi and other friends who had participated in the Hajj ceremony and are informed of their fate, but they don't want to speak about the realities," Noushabadi said.
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