Iran urges US to free prisoners

President Ahmadinejad seeks release of 11 Iranians in US custody days after Tehran freed suspected American spy.

    Shourd was released by Iranian authorities after more than 13 months in detention [AFP]

    Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president, has called on the United States to release several Iranians it is holding in jail after Iran freed an American accused of spying.

    "We are hopeful the Iranians there will be released and reunited with their families,'' Ahmadinejad said in an interview broadcast on state television on Friday.

    "From a moral viewpoint, there is an expectation that the US takes a step ... There is an expectation in public opinion to release some of them."

    Iran had previously suggested that Sarah Shourd, who was released on Tuesday after more than 13 months in prison, and two other Americans who were arrested with her could be exchanged for Iranian prisoners held in the US.

    In December, Iran released a list of 11 Iranians it says are in US custody.

    'Humanitarian gesture'

    Shourd, who was seized by Iranian authorities close to the Iraqi border, was returned to the US in what Iran described as a humanitarian gesture because of her ill health.

    "We hope they appreciate this job," Ahmadinejad said, referring to the release.

    Iranian officials have said the president personally intervened to get Shourd released on medical grounds.

    After the release, Shourd appealled for Iran to free her two friends.

    Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, has said that Washington is "absolutely committed to the return of Josh and Shane," and appealed to Tehran to let them go.

    "These two young men have been held without cause now for more than a year. It would be a very significant humanitarian gesture for the Iranians to release them as well," she said.

    Ahmadinejad made the appeal for his citizens' freedom before setting off for New York for a meeting of the UN General Assembly.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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