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US Official says Iran Confirms Holding 3 Americans

President Barack Obama's national security advisor says Iran has confirmed it is holding three Americans who are believed to have strayed into Iranian territory while hiking in northern Iraq.

Retired General Jim Jones says the Iranian government has cleared up any doubts about the location of three missing Americans.

"The government has officially acknowledged that they have them in their custody," Jones said. "As of this morning, we do have that confirmation."

Jones was speaking on NBC's "Meet the Press" program.

The United States has no diplomatic relations with Iran. In recent days, Swiss and Iraqi officials have asked about the three Americans on Washington's behalf.

News reports identify them as two males and a female who did writing and environmental work.

Iranian state television has described the detainees as spies, a charge Jones rejected.

"We have sent strong messages that we would like these three young people released as soon as possible," Jones said. "These are innocent people. We want their families reunited."

Regarding Iran's nuclear program, Jones was asked if the Obama administration would engage in dialogue with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad following Iran's disputed presidential vote and subsequent protests and unrest.

"He is the figure of authority that we have to deal with. But it is clear there are major events going on inside Iran that have to do with the [disputed presidential] election," Jones said. "But we have to deal with the figures of authority that are in position."

On another matter, Jones said the United States is nearly certain that an American missile strike in Pakistan last week killed the top-ranked Taliban leader in the country, and that a leadership struggle has since emerged within the militant group.