Iran denies detaining American woman: report

TEHRAN Thu Jan 6, 2011 11:06am EST

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TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran's state television denied on Thursday that border guards had detained an American woman on suspicion of spying.

"This woman tried to enter the country illegally but she was prevented from doing so," Iran's Arabic language television al-Alam quoted an unnamed source as saying, without giving further details.

The semi-official Fars news agency reported earlier in the day that border guards in the town of Nordouz in northwestern Iran had arrested an American woman after she had illegally entered Iran from Armenia.

Fars also said the woman was arrested about a week ago. The state-run daily Iran named the 55-year-old woman as Hall Talayan and said an espionage device was found in her teeth.

The Fars report came at a time of high tension between Tehran and Washington, which have been locked in a long-running dispute over Iran's nuclear program.

The two countries have had no diplomatic relations since Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Iran has been hit by four rounds of United Nations' sanctions for refusing to suspend sensitive parts of its nuclear work that the United States and its allies suspect is aimed at developing weapons. Iran denies this and says its nuclear program is aimed at generating electricity.

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.

(Reporting by Parisa Hafezi, writing by Zahra Hosseinian, editing by Mark Heinrich)

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