Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian rejected the claims that Tehran's former ambassador to Beirut, Qazanfar Roknabadi, who went missing during the recent crush in Saudi Arabia is dead, and said there is a growing body of evidence he is alive, IRNA reported.
'Based on our documented evidence, eyewitnesses have seen Roknabadi alive and being transferred to a hospital, but after that that has been no reliable news about his situation and whereabouts,' Amir Abdollahian said.
In relevant remarks in October, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister for Consular, Parliamentary and Expatriates Affairs Hassan Qashqavi said that he couldn't reject speculations about abduction of Roknabadi in Mina incident, although he declined to confirm Roknabadi's abduction as well.
'The foreign ministry is very seriously pursuing Roknabadi's case in Saudi Arabia since he is a well-known person in the region and the foreign ministry is pursuing his situation like other pilgrims who went missing during the Mina incident,' Qashqavi said.
Asked to comment on the speculations that Roknabadi has been kidnapped in Saudi Arabia and then transferred to Israel, he said, 'These are just speculations; yet we cannot totally reject or confirm such claims.'
Also last month, 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 Mr. 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 on September 29.
Noting that Roknabadi and other Iranian VIPs who went missing after the Mina stampede have not been found among the injured or dead pilgrims yet, he said, 'It seems that a plot had been hatched and I imagine that the Saudi security forces have kidnapped them and this is a serious possibility.'
Roknabadi's case has come under spotlight both in the Iranian and Saudi media outlets in the last few days.
Roknabadi, one of Iran's outstanding diplomats, served as the country's ambassador to Lebanon for several years.
Certain Arab media outlets claimed that Roknabadi had traveled to Saudi Arabia through illegal channels.