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Ahmadinejad Calls On U.S. To Release Eight Iranians

Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad

Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad

Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad has called on the United States to release eight Iranians who he said are being held illegally.

In a U.S. television interview, Ahmadinejad said his country made a humanitarian gesture last week in releasing an American woman -- Sarah Shourd -- held since July 2009.

In New York ahead of the UN General Assembly, Ahmadinejad also met with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

A UN statement said Ban "stressed the importance of respecting fundamental civil and political rights."

Ban also told Ahmadinejad he hoped Iran would "engage constructively" to resolve its nuclear standoff with the West.

Earlier, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged the people of Iran to reject what she said was an expansion of the Iranian military's role and power.

In an interview with U.S. TV, Clinton expressed hope that "responsible" leaders will take control in Iran.

compiled from agency reports