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Ahmadinejad Urged To Bring Jailed Americans To New York

Sarah Shourd, one of three Americans being held in Iran
NEW YORK (Reuters) -- The mothers of three Americans detained in Iran in July appealed to President Mahmud Ahmadinejad to bring them with him to New York when he attends the UN General Assembly next week.

The Iranian president's visit to New York comes as Iran prepares for talks with six world powers that Washington insists must tackle the question of Iran's nuclear ambitions.

Iran detained the three after they strayed across the border from northern Iraq at the end of July. Their families say they were hiking and crossed over accidentally.

A leading Iranian lawmaker has suggested the illegal entry of the Americans may have been related to unrest that erupted after Iran's disputed election in June. The Iranian government has said it will take time to investigate the case.

The mothers of Shane Bauer, 27, Sarah Shourd, 31, and Josh Fattal, 27, sent a letter to Ahmadinejad to the Iranian mission to the United Nations in New York on September 17, offering greetings for the holy month of Ramadan.

"We understand that Ramadan is a time of spiritual reflection, compassion and forgiveness in the Muslim faith," said the letter, which was released publicly.

"Mr. President, we implore you to bring Shane, Sarah, and Josh with you when you visit our country next week to address the General Assembly of the United Nations," it said. "Nothing would delight us more than to embrace our children and to express to you, in person, our profound gratitude for the kindness of the Iranian people."

The Islamic republic rejects Western suspicions that it is covertly trying to develop a nuclear arms capability, insisting it is enriching uranium solely as fuel for nuclear power plants.

Iran has recently held out the prospect of deeper cooperation with the UN nuclear watchdog and is gearing up for talks with the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain, and Germany.