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White House vows to press Iran on missing American

White House vows to press Iran on missing American
© Getty Images

The White House is vowing to press Iran for information on missing American Robert Levinson after the U.S. this weekend secured the release of five other Americans held in Iran.

"Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with the Levinson family," White House press secretary Josh Earnest said during a briefing Tuesday. 

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He added that the U.S. has secured a specific commitment from the Iranians to help locate Levinson, who may no longer be in Iran.  

"This administration has repeatedly over the years pressed the Iranians to be more forthcoming and to provide information about his whereabouts," Earnest said. 

Levinson, a retired FBI agent, went missing on an Iranian island in March 2007. Earnest said he did not have an updated assessment of whether Levinson is still alive. 

Levinson's family has expressed disappointment that he is still missing and that they learned about the release of other Americans through the news media.

"We're just devastated. We're not getting any answers. We're not hearing from our government. We have been abandoned. It's the worst feeling in the world, and I wouldn't wish this upon anyone," Levinson's son Daniel said on MSNBC Tuesday.

State Department spokesman John Kirby called those leaks "regrettable." 

"The leaks happened, and it got ahead of us and, again, it's regrettable but it certainly wasn't our intention and certainly wasn't any part of the plan," he said on MSNBC. 

He added that the U.S. would be able to use the same channels that secured the release of the five Americans to find Levinson. 

"And we're going to continue to use that channel, and it's good that we have it now, because we can maybe get a little bit more traction here on trying to find out what happened to Mr. Levinson and to bring him home," he added. 

Earnest said administration officials reached out to the family over the weekend and insisted the White House has been sensitive to the Levinsons. 

"We are obviously very sensitive to the concerns and rather raw feelings of the Levinson family," Earnest said. 

He said President Obama has spoken to the family on at least one occasion. 

"I think they're — the feelings that are on display are I think feelings that no one can really relate to unless you have gone through something like that. But I think we can all imagine, just in our mind's eye, what that must be like and how painful that must be. And we certainly are very sensitive to that," he added. 

This story was updated at 5:03 p.m.