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Iran arrests Swiss man for 'espionage'

BERN, Switzerland -- A Swiss businessman who disappeared a week ago has been arrested on espionage charges in Iran, suffering rocky relations with the neutral European nation, a government spokesman said Monday.

Iran's ambassador to Switzerland was summoned to the Foreign Ministry Tuesday to explain the arrest of Hans Buhler, ministry spokesman Marco Cameroni said.

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Relations between Iran and Switzerland have been tense for six months because of fallout from the assassination of former Iranian leader Shahpour Bakhtiar. But Cameroni said the poor relations aren't necessarily behind Buhler's arrest, and that Switzerland isn't advising its businessmen to avoid Tehran.

'We see no reason to link this disappearance to other developments, but we are going to ask the (Iranian) ambassador for more information,' Cameroni said, adding that the Foreign Ministry would try to finagle his freedom.

An Iranian, Ziya Sahradi, was arrested in Switzerland last October and accused of having participated two months earlier in the Paris assasination of Shahpour Bakhtiar, the last prime minister of Iran under Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlevi.

France has since asked for Sahradi's extradition to face trial there, and his appeal against the extradition proceedings is before the Swiss Supreme Court.

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Since the arrest and threatened extradition, Iranian news media have threatened reprisals against Switzerland. Delegates from the all-Swiss International Committee of the Red Cross were expelled from Iran last week, charged with having violated the Geneva Conventions -- a charge the ICRC has denied.

The disappearance of Buhler a week ago was the first concrete action taken against Swiss citizens since the relations became strained.

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