Iran TV said several foreigners, a British diplomat, are being held on spying charges

She did not say when they were arrested and if they were still in detention. Britain said the reports were “completely false”.

State television said that these spies were taking soil samples in the central desert of Iran, where the Revolutionary Guards exercises with anti-aircraft missiles.

Iranian state television showed what he said was footage of Giles Whitaker and his family in central Iran, where the British diplomat appeared to be taking soil samples. The television said he was near an area where the Revolutionary Guards were conducting a missile test.

“Whittaker was expelled from the city after he (authorities) apologized,” the television report said.

But a British Foreign Office spokesman said: “Reports of the arrest of a British diplomat in Iran are completely false.”

US spokesman Samuel Heath tweeted: “He (Whitacker) is not in Iran anymore!”

State television reported that one of the detainees is the husband of the Austrian cultural attache in Iran. It was not immediately possible to contact Austrian officials to comment on the matter.

The TV also showed a photo of a third foreigner, Maciej Walczak, a university professor in Poland, who was said to have visited Iran as a tourist.

The TV report showed footage of Valczak and three of his colleagues collecting soil samples in another area after visiting Iran as part of a science exchange programme. The report said that the sampling also coincided with a missile test in Kerman province, southern Iran.

The Iranian Revolutionary Guards have arrested dozens of dual nationals and foreigners in recent years, most of them on spying and security charges.

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Rights groups have accused the Islamic Republic of trying to win concessions from other countries through arrests on possible trumped-up security charges. Tehran denies arresting people for political reasons.

Megan Vasquez

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