February 3, 2010 / 6:59 PM / 11 years ago

U.S., Iran not in talks on prisoner swap: report

Missing American hiker Sarah Shourd is seen here in this undated photo released by freethehikers.org, August 20, 2009. Shane Bauer, Josh Fattal and Sarah Shourd have been detained in Iran since July 31, when the trio inadvertently strayed across the border on a hiking excursion in Iraq, their family members said. REUTERS/freethehikers.org/Handout

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - There are no talks between the United States and Iran on a prisoner exchange, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Wednesday, one day after Iran raised the possibility of a swap.

“There are no negotiations taking place between the United States and Iran. We believe they should unilaterally release our detained citizens,” Clinton said after a meeting with Bahrain’s foreign minister.

Clinton’s comments came one day after Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said three U.S. citizens detained in Iran and charged with spying could be swapped with Iranians held in the United States.

Clinton said it was “hard to know” what Ahmadinejad’s comments meant. She reiterated that if Iran had any questions about citizens in U.S. custody, it could place a query through the Pakistani Embassy, which represents Tehran’s interests in Washington in the absence of formal diplomatic ties.

She again appealed to Tehran to release the three Americans, who U.S. officials have said were arrested after they apparently strayed across the border from Iraq.

“We believe they are being unjustly detained and they should be released without further delay,” Clinton said.

State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley, speaking earlier, said the cases of the three U.S. hikers were not comparable to those of Iranians accused or convicted of crimes.

“There is 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, he said.

“We are not interested in a swap per se. We are interested in resolving the cases of our citizens, who we think ... should be released immediately,” he added.

Reporting by Arshad Mohammed; Editing by Doina Chiacu

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