Iran says will not swap U.S. detainees for scientist

TEHRAN Tue Jun 8, 2010 11:38am EDT

Shane Bauer (2nd L), Sarah Shourd (3rd L) and Josh Fattal (2nd R) sit with their mothers during a news conference in Tehran May 20, 2010. REUTERS/Raheb Homavandi

Shane Bauer (2nd L), Sarah Shourd (3rd L) and Josh Fattal (2nd R) sit with their mothers during a news conference in Tehran May 20, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Raheb Homavandi

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TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran will not propose to Washington the release of three U.S. detainees in return for an Iranian nuclear scientist it says was kidnapped by the CIA, the foreign minister's spokesman said on Tuesday.

In the latest twist in the disappearance one year ago of scientist Shahram Amiri, Iranian television broadcast a video on Monday of a man who said he was Amiri and had been drugged, abducted and tortured by U.S. intelligence.

Amiri, a university researcher working for Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, disappeared during a pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia. In March, ABC News said he had defected and was helping the CIA. U.S. intelligence has declined to comment.

At a news conference on Tuesday, foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast was asked if Iran would consider a prisoner swap -- requesting Amiri's release in exchange for three Americans arrested near the Iraq border last July.

"We do not think it is the right thing to discuss swapping Shahram Amiri for three Americans who illegally entered Iranian territory," Mehmanparast said.

Shane Bauer, 27, Sarah Shourd, 31, and Josh Fattal, 27, say they strayed over the border while hiking in the mountains of northern Iraq.

Iran's intelligence minister has said he has no doubt they are spies and hinted they could be released in exchange for Iranians held in the United States.

But Mehmanparast said there could be no straight swap in this case. "Shahram Amiri is an innocent Iranian citizen who has been abducted and, inhumanely, is behind bars," he said.

"Unlike the three Americans who have access to the Swiss consulate and to whom the best conditions have been provided, he doesn't have access to a consulate, and from our point of view it is a kidnapping."

Iran has no diplomatic relations with its foe the United States and U.S. interests in Tehran are handled by the Swiss embassy. Washington hopes the U.N. Security Council will approve a new set of sanctions on Iran in the coming days over its nuclear program.

The mothers of the three U.S. detainees visited their children in May. They said they were being treated well but had had no access to a lawyer and had not been told what would happen to them.

The video broadcast in Iran on Monday showed a man who resembled Amiri speaking into camera, wearing headphones. The video was made on April 5 in Arizona, the man says. There was no explanation of how it was possible to make the video or how it was conveyed to the Iranian broadcaster.

(Reporting by Ramin Mostafavi; Writing by Robin Pomeroy; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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