A senior Iranian lawmaker said Thursday the United States should not expect the release anytime soon of three American hikers detained by his country since July.
Alaeddin Boroujerdi, head of parliament's powerful committee on national security and foreign policy, said the United States had kept five Iranian diplomats in custody for a long time after detaining them in northern Iraq in January 2007, so it "should not be in hurry for the release of the three" hikers.
The Iranians, detained in the Turkish city of Irbil, were held by U.S. forces in Iraq for more than two years before they were released in July. They were held on suspicion of aiding Shiite militants in Iraq.
Iran accuses the three American hikers of spying, saying they would soon be tried.
Josh Fattal, 27, along with Shane Bauer, 27, and Sarah Shourd, 31, had been trekking in Iraq's northern Kurdistan region when they accidentally crossed the border into Iran, according to their families.
Iran's foreign minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, said last month he expected a speedy trial for the three.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has questioned the hikers' intentions but said he would do his best to free them.
In November, however, Ahmadinejad said the United States was holding several Iranian citizens, raising concern that his government might be seeking to use the Americans in a deal.
The hikers' parents have appealed for their children's release.
The continued detention of the Americans comes amid a bitter standoff between the U.S. and Iran over Tehran's disputed nuclear program.
The U.S. has no diplomatic relations with Iran. Since the three were captured, the only word on their condition came after two prison visits by Swiss diplomats, who represent U.S. interests in Iran. The last prison visit was at the end of October, with the diplomats reporting the three appeared healthy.
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