US must free Iranians in return for freed hiker: Ahmadinejad

Iran freed the American hiker after holding her for more than a year.

Tehran: The United States must set free Iranians it is holding after Tehran released American woman hiker Sarah Shourd, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Friday.

"We don`t have any expectation in return for this job (releasing Shourd)," Ahmadinejad said in an interview with state television.

"But naturally and ethically the US government should take a step and release several Iranians it has caught in Thailand, Georgia and elsewhere, or inside the US for exporting certain goods," he said.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, called on Iran to free the other two Americans detained at the same time as Shourd.

Iran freed the 32-year-old on Tuesday after holding her and fellow hikers Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal for more than a year. All three were arrested on July 31, 2009 after straying into Iran from Iraq.

The authorities had charged them with "spying and illegally entering the country”.

"The Islamic republic did this unilateral, humanitarian act. We hope that they appreciate the Islamic republic`s deed and do something humanitarian," Ahmadinejad said on Friday of the United States.

He said Oman`s Sultan Qaboos had undertaken "a lot of" effort in securing Shourd`s release, after which she was reunited in Oman with her mother who has told US media her daughter has a lump in her breast and a cervical condition.

Shourd was freed despite criticism within the Iranian judiciary of Ahmadinejad`s government for interfering in its work, and some lawmakers even directly attacked the president for pushing for her release.

She was released after bail of around USD 500,000 was paid.

On Friday, Hillary Clinton urged Iran to free Bauer and Fattal, and her spokesman said she had agreed with Sultan Qaboos to work together for their release.

Hillary told reporters it would "be a very significant humanitarian gesture" for Tehran to release the two after freeing Shourd.

Her spokesman Philip Crowley told reporters in Washington later that Hillary telephoned Sultan Qaboos to thank him for Oman`s role in obtaining Shourd`s release.

"And they agreed to stay engaged and to work cooperatively to do everything possible to bring about the release of Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal," he added.

Bureau Report