UPDATE 1-Iran says breaks up CIA spy ring, some sentenced to death -report

(Adds details, background)

DUBAI, July 22 (Reuters) - Iran has captured 17 spies working for the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and some have been sentenced to death, Iranian media reported on Monday.

State television quoted the Intelligence Ministry as saying it had broken up a CIA spying ring and captured 17 suspects. A ministry official said some of those arrested had been sentenced to death, the semi-official Fars news agency reported.

The announcement comes after three months of spiralling confrontation with the West that began when new tighter U.S. sanctions took effect at the start of May. Last week Iran captured a British tanker in the Strait of Hormuz after Britain's Royal Marines seized an Iranian tanker off the coast of Gibraltar in July 4.

"The identified spies were employed in sensitive and vital private sector centres in the economic, nuclear, infrastructural, military and cyber areas... where they collected classified information," said a ministry statement read on state television.

It was not immediately clear if the arrests were linked to the case in which Iran said in June it had exposed a large cyber espionage network it alleged was run by the CIA, and that several U.S. spies had been arrested in different countries as a result of this action. (Reporting by Dubai newsroom Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

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