Iranian President Hassan Rouhani suggested on Sunday that his regime in Tehran would consider releasing three Americans held hostage in the country if the U.S. would release several jailed Iranians.
The Iranians jailed in the U.S. are reportedly locked up for thwarting international sanctions and U.S. law by assisting the regime from inside America.
Rouhani told CNN during an interview in New York:
If the Americans take the appropriate steps and set them free, certainly the right environment will be open and the right circumstances will be created for us to do everything within our power and our purview to bring about the swiftest freedom for the Americans held in Iran as well.
The Iranian leader is in the U.S. this week for the UN General Assembly. He delivered a speech Monday morning at the UN General Debate of the 70th Session.
At least three Americans–Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian, former U.S. Marine Amir Hekmati, and Christian preacher Saeed Abedini–remain hostage in Iran, and the regime has not released any information or proof to suggest that the men broke any laws.
A fourth American, Robert Levinson, a former FBI special agent, was last seen in Iran in 2007, but his whereabouts remain unknown.
“Nothing would make me happier” than to eventually release the prisoners, Rouhani added in his CNN interview.
When asked about Rouhani’s commentary, Secretary of State John Kerry said that he had “yet to hear directly” about the proposal. “We’ve had some conversations but we’ll wait and see where we are,” Kerry added.
Separately, Rouhani attacked Republican candidates for president, claiming that their critiques of the nuclear deal were misguided and that Republicans could not find Tehran on a map.
“Sometimes when I would have time, some of it was broadcast live and I would watch it–some of it was quite laughable. It was very strange, the things that they spoke of,” Rouhani said. “Some of them wouldn’t even know where Tehran was in relation to Iran. Some of them didn’t know where Iran was geographically, not distinguishing that one is the capital of the other.”