US woman arrested in Iran for spying

2011-01-08 14:44

Tehran - Iranian border police said on Saturday they had arrested an American woman on suspicion of spying, Iranian news agencies reported on Saturday, two days after state-run TV denied a similar story.

"The female American spy was arrested at the Jolfa border," the semi-official Fars news agency quoted Ahmad Geravand, deputy commander of state border police, as telling a news conference.

Jolfa is on the border with Azerbaijan and also close to Armenian territory. Fars said she entered from Armenia.

The ISNA news agency quoted Geravand as saying: "We arrested a woman who was on a mission for the Americans to film the borders with equipment, so we arrested her at the Jolfa border and she was then handed to the intelligence ministry."

High tension

The news comes at a time of high tension between Tehran and Washington, which have been in a long-running dispute over Iran's nuclear programme.

The two countries have had no diplomatic relations since Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution but both will be represented at talks in Istanbul later this month which Western countries hope will address the nuclear stand-off.

On Thursday, daily newspaper Iran said a 55-year-old US woman identified as Hall Talayan had been arrested trying to cross the border without a visa, a report which Iran's Arabic language television al-Alam said was false.

Saturday's news reports gave Talayan's age as 34. The arrest happened on Wednesday, they said.

Three Americans - two men and a woman - were arrested in July 2009 near the Iran-Iraq border on suspicion of spying. The woman, Sarah Shourd, was released on bail a of $500 000 in September and returned to the United States. She has said the three of them strayed across the border while hiking in Iraq.

Her two companions remain in jail awaiting trial, which was postponed in November due to Shourd's absence.

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