WASHINGTON -- Iran on Tuesday officially notified Washington about the arrest of three U.S. hikers who entered Iranian territory from Iraq, a State Department spokesman said.
The notification, the first of its kind since the trio was widely reported to have been arrested by Iranian authorities on July 31 after setting out from Iraq's northern Kurdistan region, took place through Swiss channels, which represent U.S. interests in Iran.
"Our protecting power in Iran, the Swiss government, the Swiss ambassador, did today receive formal notification by the Iranian government that it has three Americans in detention," spokesman PJ Crowley told reporters.
"Iran has obligations under the Vienna Convention and we demand consular access at the first opportunity."
White House National Security Adviser James Jones said on Sunday that Iran had confirmed it arrested the three hikers, but the State Department said Monday it had still not yet obtained official word from Tehran.
A deputy governor for security in Iran's Kordestan province told the Fars news agency last week that the hikers — Shane Bauer, Sarah Shourd and Joshua Fattal — had been arrested near the town of Marivan for illegal entry.
Top Iranian lawmaker Aladdin Brujerdi, head of the parliament's national security and foreign policy commission, has said it may take time to resolve the fate of the American hikers.
On Friday, a companion of the group said his friends had no idea they were so close to the Iranian border. Shon Meckfessel said they had gone to see a waterfall, a local attraction recommended by locals in the Iraqi Kurdish city of Sulaimaniya.
"I hope that people understand my friends' presence in the area for what it was: a simple and very regrettable mistake," he said.
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