Iran will allow Swiss access to detained Americans

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U.S. officials said Tuesday that Iran has notified the Swiss government that the Swiss can have access to three Americans who have been detained in Iran since being arrested for illegal entry in late July.

The move could be seen as a conciliatory gesture on Iran’s part, coming two days before a high-profile meeting between Iran and five world powers seeking to persuade Iran to abandon any effort to build nuclear weapons.

The Swiss government represents U.S. interests in Tehran, since the United States has no formal diplomatic relations with the Islamic republic. Two U.S. officials said Iran had notified the Swiss that their consular services are required, meaning they can meet with the Americans to verify their condition. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because of the diplomatic sensitivity of the matter.

The three Americans are Joshua Fattal, Shane Bauer and Sarah Shourd.

Since the Americans’ arrest, their families have had no contact with them and no information other than the fact of their detention.

On Sept. 22, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in New York to speak to the U.N. General Assembly, said in an Associated Press interview that he would ask the country’s judiciary to expedite the process and to “look at the case with maximum leniency.”

His remark sparked hope among the hikers’ families that they might be released and allowed to return home.

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