An American woman identified as Haley Talayan has been arrested in Iran and accused of espionage, Iranian news websites reported today.
Talayan, 55, was reportedly detained by customs officials in the northwest border town of Nordouz after crossing over from neighboring Armenia without a valid visa.
The online Nasim News Agency said Talayan was found with "espionage equipment," including a recording device supposedly hidden in her teeth.
On Thursday evening Iran's Alam TV quoted "Iranian government sources" as saying that Talayan "is still in Armenia and didn't enter Iran, but at the border points she asked to enter Iran. After checking her papers, she was not permitted to enter Iran because she didn't have an entry visa." The sources described the reports about arresting the woman in Iran as "fabricated."
Another Iranian website, Gerdab.ir, said Talayan feared being deported back to Armenia because she would be killed by Armenian security forces. It was unclear from the reports when Talayan crossed the border.
A State Department official told ABC News that the U.S. has asked the Swiss, who represent U.S. interests in Tehran since there are no American diplomats there, to check into these reports. The official said the U.S. has not yet been able to confirm that Talayan is an American. Armenia is an ally of both Iran and the U.S., and its citizens can enter Iran relatively freely by procuring a visa on arrival.
Dubai-based analyst Dr. Theodore Karasik sees the reported arrest as part of a pattern.
"It's part of the regime mentality that they're under various forms of attack right now. It plays to the domestic audience," he said.
Karasik said the timing of the arrest, weeks before the U.S., Iran, and other countries are set to resume nuclear talks, is also significant.
"The Iranian regime usually likes to pick up another Westerner just before the talks are going to begin," said Karasik. "It's part of their strategy of negotiation, meant to keep the West off balance."
Two other Americans, Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer, remain in Iranian custody awaiting trial. They were detained after crossing the Iran-Iraq border in July 2009, and later accused of espionage. A third American, Sarah Shourd, was arrested along with Fattal and Bauer, but was allowed to be bailed out of prison last year.
ABC News' Kirit Radia and Desiree Adib contributed to this report