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U.S. Says Hikers Detained In Iran Call Families

Two of the three hikers, Shane Bauer (left) and Sarah Shourd
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- Three Americans detained in Iran last year and accused of spying have been allowed to telephone their families, although formal consular access has not been granted, the U.S. State Department said today.

State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley repeated U.S. calls for Tehran to release the three, whose arrest in July after straying into Iran from northern Iraq further complicated relations between Tehran and Washington, already deadlocked over Iran's nuclear program.

"The three American hikers detained in Iran have had the opportunity to call to their families. While this is a positive development, we continue to seek consular access through the Swiss Embassy," Crowley said.

Swiss diplomats, who represent U.S. interests in Iran in the absence of formal diplomatic ties, last had access to the three on October 29, Crowley said.

Iran's judiciary has laid espionage charges against the three -- Shane Bauer, 27, Sarah Shourd, 31, and Josh Fattal, 27. Their families said they were hiking and had wandered across the border accidentally.

Crowley said Washington believed the hikers should be released, along with two Iranian-Americans also said to be held in Iran in separate cases.