Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is ruling out Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's suggestion that three detained American hikers in Iran should be swapped with Iranian citizens held in the United States.
Clinton said Wednesday that the hikers, along with other Americans jailed in Iran, should be released immediately on humanitarian grounds. She said there as there is no basis for their continued detention.
Clinton, speaking at the State Department, called the allegations against the hikers and at least two other Americans held in Iran unjust.
Her comments came a day afterin a television interview that the three American hikers be traded for Iranians that Tehran says are currently in U.S. jails.
Shane Bauer, Sarah Shourd and Josh Fattal were hiking in Iraq's northern Kurdistan region in July when they accidentally crossed the border, their families have said.
Iran's foreign minister said in late December that the three would be tried in court, but he did not say when a trial would begin or what the three would be charged with other than to say they had "suspicious aims." Earlier, the country's chief prosecutor said they were accused of spying.
Their families say that's ludicrous and last month hired an Iranian attorney to press the case.
Ahmadinejad said there were "indications they knew they were crossing into Iran."
The last time anyone sympathetic saw the three was at the end of October, when Swiss diplomats were granted a short visit. The U.S. has no diplomatic relationship with Iran and is represented in such matters by the Swiss. At the time, the diplomats said the three were in good health.
In December, in an interview with ABC News, Ahmadinejad appeared to hedge on his promise to help free the hikers.
Their jailing comes amid continued tension between the U.S. and Iran over that nation's nuclear program.
When the list of 11 Iranians came out State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said it appeared the Iranian government was trying to suggest some kind of equivalence between the hikers and Iranians that had left Iran.
"There really is no equivalence at all," he said at the time.
Three of the Iranians on the list have been convicted or charged in public court proceedings in the United States. The circumstances surrounding some of the others are more mysterious.
Ali Reza Asgari, a retired general in the elite Revolutionary Guard and a former deputy defense minister, disappeared while on a private trip to Turkey in December 2006.
Shahram Amiri, an Iranian nuclear scientist, went missing while on a pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia in June. Iran's foreign minister has accused the U.S. of helping to kidnap him and has asked for his return.
The list also includes three Iranians who Tehran claims were abducted in Europe and sent to the U.S.: merchant Mohsen Afrasiabi, who it says disappeared in Germany, as well as electrical engineering student Majid Kakavand and a former ambassador to Jordan, Nasrollah Tajik, who it says vanished in France.
French media have reported that Kakavand was arrested in March at the request of the U.S. on suspicion he obtained electronic equipment. He was jailed, then moved to house arrest on Aug. 27. The French press has reported that Tajik went missing in Britain.
Three of the Iranians Tehran is asking about have faced public legal proceedings in the U.S.