Washington, Jan 8 (AFP) A US military veteran is being held in Iran where he was visiting his girlfriend, a report said Tuesday, posing a fresh issue in the two countries’ thorny relations. Also Read - For Big Tech, Joe Biden Brings A New Era But No Ease In Scrutiny By Marcon Gordon

Michael R White, 46, from Imperial Beach, California, never boarded a return flight via Dubai in July, his mother told The New York Times. Also Read - 'Don't Ever Talk to The President that Way': Donald Trump Snaps at Reporter Over Election Question | Watch

The US State Department said it was “aware of reports” of the detention but declined details, citing privacy considerations. Also Read - Will Leave White House if Electoral College Declares Biden Victory, Says Trump

“We have no higher priority than the safety and security of US citizens abroad,” a State Department spokesperson said.

White’s mother, Joanne White, told the Times that her son had visited Iran “five or six times” to see an Iranian woman described as his girlfriend.

She said that she learned from the State Department that he was imprisoned in Iran on unclear charges.

She said she requested that Switzerland, which represents US interests in Iran in the absence of diplomatic relations, pay a consular visit to her son.

White would join at least three other US citizens, two of them of Iranian descent, in being detained in the clerical-led country.

Relations between the two countries deteriorated sharply last year when US President Donald Trump withdrew from an international accord on ending Iran’s nuclear program and imposed sweeping sanctions. (AFP) SMJ SMJ

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.