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Iran prez says he seeks swap of prisoners with U.S.

TEHRAN - President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad proposed a swap Tuesday of Iranians in U.S. prisons for three American hikers being held in Tehran.

Ahmadinejad said in an interview with state TV that negotiations were going on about exchanging the hikers for several Iranians jailed for years in the United States.

"There are some talks under way to have an exchange, if it is possible," he said. "Recently they [the United States] have sent messages, we answered to bring them [the Iranians], to bring these people [the hikers]. We are hopeful that all prisoners will be released."

Ahmadinejad did not give any specifics, but in December, Iran issued a list of 11 Iranians it says are being held in the U.S., including a nuclear scientist who disappeared in Saudi Arabia and a former Defense Ministry official who vanished in Turkey.

"I had said I would help in releasing them, but the attitude of some of U.S. officials damages the job," Ahmadinejad said.

The White House called the reports "fragmentary." "We have not entered into any discussion with Iran about an exchange," said National Security Council spokesman Mike Hammer. "As we have indicated publicly, if Iran has questions about its citizens in U.S. custody, we are prepared to answer them."

Ahmadinejad also said Iran was ready to send its uranium abroad for further enrichment, as requested by the UN. The decision could signal a major shift in Iran on the issue. - AP

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