Senators: U.S.-Iran dispute separate from hikers' plightby Elizabeth Dunbar, Minnesota Public Radio
Minnesota's U.S. senators joined two others Tuesday to urge Iran's president to release the three American hikers that have been held in his country since July.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is visiting the United Nations this week, and the senators hoped he would hear them advocating on behalf of Shane Bauer, Sarah Shourd and Josh Fattal's families.
The three have been held since July after apparently crossing the border into Iran while hiking in Iraqi Kurdistan.
Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., said it's unfortunate that the hikers appear to be caught up in a political dispute between Iran and the U.S.
"We call upon the Iranian government to make a humanitarian gesture separate from all the different political strife or conflict we seem to be having with Iran," Franken said. "This has nothing to do with that."
Franken added that the hikers' families have gone through enough agony and should be able to talk to their loved ones -- something that's been allowed only once.
"They have held together very well, but they're suffering, they really are," he said.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., noted that the mothers of the hikers, including Bauer's mother Cindy Hickey of Pine City, face a difficult Mother's Day.
"As a mother I can hardly imagine what these strong, brave women are going through this week," she said. "They didn't train to be an international negotiator, they didn't think their kids would become pawns in an international dispute."
The hikers' families have tried to get visas to go visit their loved ones in Iran, but so far Iran's government hasn't granted them.