President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan in the Oval Office of the White House, Monday, July 22, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Trump denies CIA link to Iran spy claim, says it's 'lie'

July 22, 2019 - 2:49 pm

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump on Monday said Iran is lying about having arrested 17 Iranian nationals recruited by the Central Intelligence Agency to spy on the country's nuclear and military sites.

"That's totally a false story. That's another lie," Trump told reporters at the White House.

In Tehran, an Iranian intelligence official told a news conference that the arrests took place over the past months, and that those taken into custody worked on "sensitive sites" in the country's military and nuclear facilities.

Trump also said Iran has "disrespected" the United States, and that it is "getting harder" for him to want to make a deal with Iran to replace the 2015 nuclear deal that Trump pulled out of last year.

He called Iran a "very mixed up country" with big economic problems and a restive population.

"They have a lot of problems," he said. "So, whatever it is, I'm just going to sit back and wait" to see whether Tehran is going to agree to negotiate limits on its nuclear program and other activities.

"If they want to make a deal, frankly it's getting harder for me to want to make a deal with Iran because they've behaved very badly. They're saying bad things."

Tensions with the West escalated on Friday when Iran seized a British-flagged oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz. On Monday, British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt accused Iran of "an act of state piracy" that he said must be met with a coordinated international reaction.

In his comments in the Oval Office, Trump also claimed "there's a lot of proof" that the U.S. destroyed an Iranian drone last week over the Strait of Hormuz, although the U.S. actually has provided no public evidence, let alone proof. Iran denies it lost a drone.

The president appeared to confirm news reports that the USS Boxer used an electronic jamming device to bring down the drone, rather than shoot it down with a missile or another conventional weapon.

"The drone came down, you know how it came down, with a new technology that's actually quite amazing," Trump said. The U.S. military last week refused to say what kind of weapon it used against the drone.

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