- Associated Press - Sunday, January 9, 2011

WASHINGTON (AP) — An American woman reportedly arrested in Iran for espionage has been located by U.S. officials and is safe and not in Iranian custody, the State Department said Saturday.

“We have located the U.S. citizen who appears to have been the subject of the reports and confirmed that the individual is safe,” spokesman Mark Toner said. “She is not in Iran.”

A U.S. official who declined to be identified because of privacy concerns said that the woman, identified by Iranian authorities as 34-year-old Hal Fayalan, is in Istanbul and that American consular officials have been in touch with her.

Earlier Saturday, a senior Iranian police official said Iranian border guards had detained the woman on Wednesday in the town of Jolfa along Iran’s border with Azerbaijan on suspicion of spying, the latest in a string of conflicting reports about the case.

Gen. Ahmad Geravand told Iranian state radio that authorities arrested the woman while she was filming border crossings and guard posts in Jolfa, contradicting an earlier denial of her arrest on state TV.

The semiofficial ISNA news agency quoted Gen. Geravand as saying she “was on a mission for the Americans to film the country’s borders.” Gen. Geravand also said the woman at one point claimed to be a Swiss citizen.

His statement follows reports on Thursday from a state-owned Iranian newspaper and the semiofficial Fars news agency that authorities had detained an American woman carrying “spy equipment” along the Armenian border, which is also near Iran’s frontier with Azerbaijan. The reports identified the woman as Hal Talaian.

But hours later, Iranian state TV denied the reports and said no American had been detained.

The State Department said Friday it had reached out to Swiss diplomats, who represent U.S. interests in Iran, for information but had no indication that an American woman had been arrested in Iran. It said a search of passport and other records could not find a match for the name Hal Talaian or variations of it.

The alleged arrest would have been the fourth of an American that Iran has detained and has accused of spying in less than two years.

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