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U.S. Woman Said Detained In Iran On Spy Charges

A photo from the Iranian website purporting to show Hall Talayan, who has reportedly been detained on the Iranian border

A photo from the Iranian website purporting to show Hall Talayan, who has reportedly been detained on the Iranian border

Iran's state-run television has denied reports that Iranian authorities have detained an American woman attempting to enter Iran via the border with Armenia.

The station quoted a "well informed" source as saying, "This woman tried to enter the country illegally, but she was prevented from doing so." It said the woman is in Armenia.

Earlier, the state run "Iran" newspaper reported that a 55-year-old-woman identified as Hall Talayan had been detained as she attempted the border crossing. The newspaper said an espionage device was found in her teeth and she did not have an Iranian visa.

The hard line Fars News Agency, quoting an unnamed source, reported that the woman was detained by customs officials a week ago.

Other Iranian news sources, including the website "Tabnak," also reported that "an American woman spy" was arrested in the town of Nordouz in northwestern Iran.

The website also reported the detail about a mouth microphone and said the woman told authorities that if she returned to Armenia, she would be killed by security forces.

U.S. Seeking Information

In Washington, State Department Deputy spokesman Mark Toner said the United States is seeking more information through the U.S. Embassy in Armenia and Swiss officials, who represent U.S. interests in the Islamic Republic.

Shane Bauer, Sarah Shourd, and Josh Fattal were detained in July of 2009 by Iranian authorities and accused of spying. Shourd has been released.

"What we've heard so far is precisely conflicting reports. So, frankly, rather than give those any kind of momentum or life, I'd rather just wait until we have the facts."

Another official at the State Department was quoted by agencies as saying that Washington has been unable to confirm the woman's nationality.

Iranian authorities have not publicly reacted to the report, which comes amid increasing tensions between Iran and the U.S. over the continued detention of two Americans and suspicion over Tehran's nuclear program.

Last July, Iran arrested three American hikers -- a woman and two men -- near the border with Iraq and accused them of illegally crossing into Iran to commit espionage, a charge they and the U.S. State Department deny.

The two men, Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal, remain in jail awaiting trial, which could take place in February. The woman, Sara Shourd, was released last September on humanitarian grounds after posting $500,000 bail.

The State Department has repeatedly called on Iran to release the two men.

Written by Golnaz Esfandiari with Iranian and U.S. agency reports.