United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, speaking to reporters in Washington with Bahrain’s foreign minister Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed al-Khalifa, renewed calls for the unconditional release of Americans held in Iran including Kian:
“WASHINGTON – US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called Wednesday on Iran to “unilaterally release” three hikers and other Americans in Iranian custody as she denied there were any negotiations on a prisoner swap.
In a state television interview, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadineja said Tuesday that talks about exchanging prisoners with Washington were underway when asked about the fate of three American hikers detained in Iran…
“There are no negotiations taking place between the United States and Iran. We believe they should unilaterally release our detained citizens,” the chief US diplomat said.
Clinton repeated previous demands that all US citizens held in Iran should be released “without delay” on humanitarian grounds because their detention “is baseless.”
Earlier, her spokesman Philip Crowley dismissed the idea of a prisoner swap with Iran, saying Americans in Iranian custody cannot be equated with Iranians convicted in US courts.
“We’re not interested in a swap per se,” Crowley told reporters. “We are interested in resolving the cases of our citizens.”
Iran is holding a number of US citizens in custody, including hikers Sarah Shourd, Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer, who were arrested on July 31 after wandering over the Iraq border into Iranian territory.
Crowley added that Washington also wants the release of US citizens Reza Taghavi and Kian Tajbakhsh, and remains concerned about the fate of Robert Levinson, a former FBI agent who went missing during a visit to Iran in 2007.
“There’s not really an equivalence, if you will, between, say, an Iranian citizen who has been indicted and or convicted of arms trafficking, in violation of… international law, and three hikers who wandered across an unmarked border,” Crowley said.
But he and Clinton repeated the US stand that Washington remained open to questions from Tehran about Iranians held in the United States.
“To the extent that Iran has questions about Iranian citizens in US custody, we would remain… willing to entertain those questions and facilitate consular access, if that’s what Iran desires,” Crowley said.
Iran alleges that 11 Iranians are “illegally” detained in the United States, including nuclear scientist Shahram Amiri, who went missing in Saudi Arabia while on pilgrimage to Mecca last year.
Crowley said he did not know how many Iranians were in US custody.
In a case unveiled for the first time on December 2 last year, US prosecutors said an Iranian man, Amir Ardebili, pleaded guilty in May 2008 to 14 counts of violating US arms control rules.
Court documents obtained two weeks later by AFP showed he had been sentenced to five years in prison for trafficking weapons to Tehran.
Prosecutors said Ardebili was apprehended in an unnamed Central Asian country in October 2007 and extradited to United States, where he had been secretly detained since January 2008.
The State Department said an Iranian government representative could visit him.”