Iran General NewsObama welcomes Iran release, urges freeing of other hikers

Obama welcomes Iran release, urges freeing of other hikers

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AFP: US President Barack Obama Tuesday welcomed Iran’s release of US citizen Sarah Shourd, but urged Tehran to also free two compatriots who were held with her and “other missing or detained Americans.”

WASHINGTON (AFP) — US President Barack Obama Tuesday welcomed Iran’s release of US citizen Sarah Shourd, but urged Tehran to also free two compatriots who were held with her and “other missing or detained Americans.”

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called on Iranian authorities to resolve the cases of Shourd’s companions “without delay” while her spokesman said the US government did not pay the bail and Iranian court demanded for her release.

US authorities had made repeated demands on Tehran to free Shourd and two other American hikers and had worked with Switzerland, which represents Washington in Iran in the absence of diplomatic ties, on their case.

“I am very pleased that Sarah Shourd has been released by the Iranian government, and will soon be united with her family,” Obama said in a written statement.

“While Sarah has been released, Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal remain prisoners in Iran who have committed no crime,” he said.

“We remain hopeful that Iran will demonstrate renewed compassion by ensuring the return of Shane, Josh and all the other missing or detained Americans in Iran.”

Clinton, who is at Middle East peace talks in Egypt paid tribute to Switzerland, the government of Oman and “many other world leaders who have raised this case and the case of other detained or missing American citizens.”

“We urge Iranian authorities to extend the same consideration to them by resolving their cases without delay and allowing them to immediately return to their families,” Clinton said in her written statement.

State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said no US government funds were included in any bail payment.

“The United States didn’t pay anything for her release,” Crowley told reporters, adding that an unnamed entity or individual “provided sufficient assurances” to Iran to secure Shourd’s release after she spent more than a year in a Tehran prison.

“If money has changed hands, the short answer is we don’t know.”

Several other US citizens, including former FBI agent Robert Levinson are thought to be missing or detained by Iran, along with the two other hikers.

Shourd was arrested along with fellow hikers Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal on July 31, 2009 after straying into Iran from Iraq.

Iranian authorities have charged them with “spying and illegally entering the country.”

The three have rejected the charges, insisting that they mistakenly entered Iran after getting lost during a trek in Iraqi Kurdistan.

Shourd was freed on bail of around 500,000 dollars (391,000 euros), which was paid in Oman at Iran’s state-run Bank Melli, Iran’s English-language Press TV reported, quoting Tehran prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi.

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