Syrian government denies holding missing journalist, father says

Syrian government denies holding missing journalist, father says
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Monday, November 12, 2012 - 9:03pm

By the CNN Wire Staff

(CNN) -- The Syrian government has told the parents of a missing American journalist that it doesn't know where their son is, the man's father said Monday at a news conference in Beirut, Lebanon.

Austin Tice last contacted his family on August 13 while in Syria reporting on the uprising there against the government of President Bashar al-Assad. He was reportedly preparing to leave Syria for Lebanon when he went missing, according to his family.

In October, a shaky video surfaced on YouTube showing a man believed to be Tice surrounded by armed men walking him up a hill.

Tice's father, Marc Tice, said that family members have been in touch, "directly and indirectly," with Syrian government officials, but they have learned nothing about his son's location despite traveling to Beirut to seek his release.

"We're reaching out to everyone that we can get in touch with," he said.

Tice's parents say they are willing to go to Syria if that what it will take to get their son back.

"We have no idea what will be required, and we would like to know from whoever is holding him what it is that we need to do," Marc Tice said.

Austin is the oldest of the couple's seven children.

"We are a big, close family. We have all felt the void [of] his absence," said his mother, Debra Tice.

With the holiday season approaching, they are "dismayed by the empty chair at our family table," she said. "We miss Austin. Knowing his smile, big laugh, great storytelling."

"We ask whomever is holding Austin to treat him well, to keep him safe and return him to us as soon as possible," Marc Tice said. "Again, anyone that hears this, anyone that can help us find Austin, talk with him and get him back safely, please send us an e-mail."

The e-mail address is information@austintice.com.

U.S. State Department spokesman Victoria Nuland said Thursday that U.S. officials have no idea where Tice is but have enlisted the help of Poland, which represents U.S. interests in Syria as a "protecting power" after the closing of the American Embassy in Damascus.

"We continued to work through our various channels, including the protecting power, to urge the Syrian regime to be more forthcoming," she said.

Nuland previously said U.S. officials believe Tice was detained by Syrian officials in August as he was preparing to leave the country. Tice had smuggled himself into the country to report on the uprising.

State Department officials have questioned the veracity of the October video, which purports to show Tice in the custody of rebels fighting the Syrian government.

Debra Tice pleaded that whoever has her child think about their own family.

"Austin is a cherished son and beloved brother," she said. "If he were your son or brother, I ask, what would you do to find him and return him to your family?"

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