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Rouhani: Willing to Discuss Prisoner Swap With US

  • VOA News

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani at the United Nations General Assembly in New York City, September 26, 2015.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani at the United Nations General Assembly in New York City, September 26, 2015.

Iran's president says his government will work to free three Americans from its prisons if the United States releases jailed Iranians.

In an interview with CNN Sunday, Hassan Rouhani said, "If the Americans take the appropriate steps and set them free, certainly the right environment will be open and the right circumstances will be created for us to do everything within our power and our purview to bring about the swiftest freedom for the Americans held in Iran as well.

Rouhani is visiting New York for the U.N. General Assembly.

At least three Americans, all of them of Iranian heritage, are in jail in Iran, including Jason Rezaian, a correspondent for The Washington Post who was arrested in July 2014 and accused of spying.

The two other Americans are Amir Hekmati, a former U.S. Marine who was charged with spying, and Saeed Abedini, a convert to Christianity who organized a Bible study group.

Another American, former FBI agent Robert Levinson, disappeared in Iran in 2007 but his whereabouts are unclear.

Much of Iran's judiciary is known for its closeness to hardliners, who are eager to scuttle the moderate Rouhani's efforts to reconcile with Western powers.

The United States has regularly demanded the unconditional release of the three prisoners.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, asked by reporters about Rouhani's remarks, said he has "yet to hear directly" from Iran about the idea.

"We've had some conversations but we'll wait and see where we are," Kerry said.

For its part, Iran has sought the freedom of 19 of its citizens who are jailed in the United States in connection with Washington's sanctions against the Islamic republic's nuclear program.

Iran and the United States have not had diplomatic relations since 1980, a year after the Islamic revolution toppled the Western-oriented shah.

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