Iranian state television reports the mothers of three American hikers jailed in Iran for nine months have arrived in Tehran to appeal for their release.
Iranian Intelligence Minister Heidar Moslehi told state media Wednesday the Iranian government decided to grant the American mothers visas to visit their children in prison as a humanitarian gesture.
Iranian officials say Americans Joshua Fattal, Shane Bauer and Sarah Shourd illegally entered the country from Iraq last July. Iranian authorities accuse them of spying. Family members say the hikers accidentally strayed into Iran from northern Iraq's Kurdish region.
The three Americans have been allowed to speak to their family members only once before - by telephone for several minutes in March.
Before departing from New York Tuesday, the mothers expressed excitement at the prospect of reuniting with their children. The women also said they hope Iran will allow them to bring the jailed trio home.
The fate of the Americans has been another source of tension between the United States and Iran as they wage a diplomatic battle over the Iranian nuclear program.
Washington accuses Tehran of secretly trying to build atomic weapons. Iran says its nuclear work is peaceful.
In an interview Monday with VOA (Persian service), Shane Bauer's mother, Cindy Hickey, and Sarah Shourd's mother, Nora Shourd, said they hope to meet with Iranian officials.
Hickey said the thought of leaving Iran without their children is "unbearable." Nora Shourd said it means a lot that Iran's government is letting them see their children. Switzerland represents U.S. interests in Iran and is helping to arrange the mothers' visit.
Some information for this report was provided by AP and AFP.