Iran dismisses as 'lies' reports about USA citizen

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi

Ghasemi said the United States government, through the Swiss embassy in Tehran, was informed of the arrest during the early days of the incident.

"The New York Times has quoted White's mother saying she learned three weeks ago that her son is alive and being held at an Iranian prison".

A US State Department representative said the department was "aware of reports of the detention of a US citizen in Iran", and that it has "no higher priority than the safety and security of US citizens overseas".

Iran has not yet made public the arrest of White and no specific charges have been made clear. She filed a missing persons report after White failed to board his July 27, 2018, flight back to the US, according to the AP.

Mr White, who has acute asthma and has been treated for a tumour in his neck, has been to Iran to see his girlfriend five or six times, she added.

He had booked a return flight to San Diego for 27 July, she said.

Iranian officials said Mr White was detained in the city of Mashhad, in the north-east of the country.

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"I'm very anxious about his health", White's mother told CBS on Tuesday. "Due to privacy considerations, we have no additional information to provide at this time".

Siamak Namazi, another son of Baquer, is being held following a clandestine trial in which he was convicted of collaborating with a hostile state.

London-based news website IranWire said Mr White was being held in Vakilabad prison in Mashhad, northeastern Iran. "We have no higher priority than the safety and security of USA citizens overseas".

Baquer Namazi, a retired UNICEF official, and his son Siamak, an Iranian-American businessman, were sentenced in 2016 to 10 years in prison for spying and cooperating with the USA government. His family said he's been held captive since last summer.

Several US citizens have been held in Iran in recent years, with Mr Trump warning in 2017 that Tehran would face "new and serious consequences" unless all unjustly held American citizens were freed.

Tensions have been high since U.S. President Donald Trump pulled Washington out of a landmark nuclear deal with Iran and reimposed crippling economic sanctions against Tehran past year.

Sources told CBS News that Iran is holding the United States nationals to try to win concessions such as those received in a deal reached with former President Barack Obama.

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