TEHRAN - Iran confirmed Wednesday it is holding U.S. Navy veteran Michael R. White at a prison in the country, making him the first American known to be detained under President Donald Trump's administration.
White's detention adds new pressure to the rising tension between Iran and the U.S., which under Trump has pursued a maximalist campaign against Tehran that includes pulling out of its nuclear deal with world powers.
While the circumstances of White's detention remain unclear, Iran in the past has used its detention of Westerners and dual nationals as leverage in negotiations.
The semi-official Tasnim news agency, believed to be close to the country's paramilitary Revolutionary Guard, reported the confirmation, citing Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi.
“An American citizen was arrested in the city of Mashhad some time ago and his case was conveyed to the U.S. administration on the first days” of his incarceration, Ghasemi was quoted as saying.
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. His arrest was first reported by an online news service by Iranian expatriates who interviewed a former Iranian prisoner who said he met White at Vakilabad Prison in Mashhad in October.
The Associated Press has been unable to reach members of White's family. The State Department said it was aware of reports of an American citizen's arrest, but was otherwise unable to comment.
White's mother, Joanne White, had told the Times that her 46-year-old son went to Iran to see his girlfriend and had booked a July 27 flight back home to San Diego via the United Arab Emirates. She filed a missing person report with the State Department after he did not board the flight. She added that he had been undergoing treatment for a neck tumor and has asthma.