(AP) - Iran said Monday that a U.S. journalist who was recently detained in the country was engaged in "illegal" activities because she continued working after the government revoked her press credentials in 2006.
Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hasan Qashqavi did not specify why Roxana Saberi's credentials were revoked and refused to say whether the 31-year-old freelance journalist, who has reported for National Public Radio and other media, was in prison.
Saberi's father, Reza, of Fargo, N.D., said his daughter told him by phone Feb. 10 that she was detained after buying a bottle of wine but has not heard from her since.
Reza Saberi said Monday he does not believe the explanation for detaining her. He said her credentials were revoked two years ago, but she has not reported on any government activities.
Buying and selling alcohol is illegal in the Islamic state, but Qashqavi did not mention the bottle of wine at his weekly press conference Monday.
"Her accreditation was over in 2006 after Iranian authorities revoked her press card," said Qashqavi. "Her activities since 2006 were completely illegal and unauthorized."
In Fargo, N.D., Reza Saberi said, "She had no access. How could she go and report something important?"
"It's a groundless charge," he said.
NPR said Sunday that Iran revoked Saberi's press credentials more than a year ago but apparently let her report short news stories.
Saberi's father said his daughter had been in detention for 10 days when she called him but did not know where she was being held.
She called him back minutes later to say she would be released in two days, but he has not heard from her.
He said his daughter, who has lived in Iran for six years, was finishing a book about the country's culture and people and planned to return to the U.S. this year.
In Washington, State Department spokesman Gordon Duguid told reporters that Saberi's status was unclear. He said the United States has asked for information through Swiss diplomats in Tehran but has yet to receive a response.
Duguid did not have any information on why Saberi was arrested but said State Department officials have been in touch with her family.
Human rights groups have repeatedly criticized Iran for arresting journalists and suppressing freedom of speech. The government has arrested several Iranian-Americans in the past few years, citing alleged attempts to overthrow its Islamic regime.
The most high-profile case came in 2007, when Iran arrested four Iranian-Americans, including the academic Haleh Esfandiari. The four were imprisoned or had their passports confiscated for several months until they were released and allowed to return to the U.S.
Saberi's father is from Iran, but she was born in the United States.
The U.S. broke off diplomatic relations with Iran after the 1979 Islamic Revolution and the takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran by hard-line students.
Tensions have been high in recent years between the two countries over U.S. accusations that Iran is secretly seeking to develop nuclear weapons and providing weapons to Shiite militants in Iraq. Iran denies both charges.
President Barack Obama has said his administration is looking for opportunities to open direct talks with Iran and has pledged to rethink Washington's relationship with its longtime adversary.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad responded by saying Iran would welcome talks with the U.S. - but only if there was mutual respect.
(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)