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Clinton: Iran's Possible Release of US Hikers 'Encouraging'


US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton responds to reporter's questions at the US Department of State, September 13, 2011.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton responds to reporter's questions at the US Department of State, September 13, 2011.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says she is encouraged by comments from Iran's president announcing that two American hikers convicted of spying in Iran will soon be freed.

In an interview broadcast Tuesday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told a correspondent for the American television network NBC that he thinks Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal will be freed on humanitarian grounds within "a couple of days."

The State Department says it has yet to receive any confirmation that a release is near. It says it is working on the case with Switzerland, which represents U.S. interests in Iran. Clinton said the Obama administration hopes to see a "positive outcome."

The families of the two hikers say they are "overjoyed" that the men may soon be released, calling the news a "huge relief." The families say they have no details but are looking forward to a reunion.

Bauer and Fatal were sentenced last month to eight-year prison terms for the spying charges.

Iran freed a third hiker, Sarah Shourd, a year ago after she posted a $500,000 bond. She returned to the United States. The lawyer for Bauer and Fattal said Tuesday bail for the two men had also been set at $500,000.

Iranian authorities arrested the three American hikers in the Iran-Iraq border area in mid-2009. The trio has insisted that if they strayed over the border into Iran, it was inadvertent.

Supporters of the hikers denounced their sentences, saying Iranian prosecutors had presented no credible evidence against them.

Some information for this report was provided by AP.

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