Iran holding jailed Americans for leverage, sources say
10 January, 2019, 17:32
Iran confirmed on Wednesday it had arrested an American, confirming United States media reports about a case that risks further worsening relations with Washington.
She told the New York Times that her son had been set to return from Iran via Dubai on July 27 but had never boarded his flight.
"We are aware of reports of the detention of a USA citizen in Iran", a spokesperson for the State Department told NPR.
Michael White is one of several USA citizens and other foreign nationals held in Iran. She filed a missing persons report after White failed to board his July 27, 2018, flight back to the USA, according to the AP.
Iran's Foreign Ministry confirmed on Wednesday that an American citizen had been arrested in the city of Mashhad, but denied reports he had been badly treated, according to the Islamic Republic News Agency.
She said her son had visited Iran "five or six times" to see an Iranian woman she described as his girlfriend.
Qassemi said, "We strongly reject such untrue and false reports".
"I'm very anxious about his health", she said, according to CBS News. "Due to privacy considerations, we have no additional information to provide at this time", a State Department official told the Times via email.
Michael White's wife, Lupe White, said she last saw her husband July 9, and he texted her a day later saying he was on a business trip for two weeks.
Since October 2015, it has also been holding Iranian-American Siamak Namazi.
"We have no higher priority than the safety and security of U.S. citizens overseas".
London-based news website IranWire said Mr White was being held in Vakilabad prison in Mashhad, northeastern Iran.
The network reported that it learned that Iran suggested a possible prisoner exchange a year ago, but State Department officials will not say whether the Trump administration is willing to negotiate. His family said he's been held captive since last summer.
At least three other American citizens, two of whom are of Iranian descent, have been under arrest in Iran for years while another American has been missing for more than a decade.
Relations between Iran and the United States deteriorated sharply a year ago when President Donald Trump withdrew from an global accord on Iran's nuclear programme and re-imposed sweeping sanctions.
Sources told CBS News that Iran is holding the USA nationals to try to win concessions such as those received in a deal reached with former President Barack Obama.
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