h_clinton.jpgU.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in San Francisco Thursday night that she’s hopeful that the Iranian government will soon release two University of California at Berkeley graduates who have been detained in Iran on espionage charges for more than two years.

Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal, both 29, and a third UC Berkeley graduate, Sarah Shourd, were arrested on July 31, 2009, after embarking on a hike in Iraq’s Kurdistan region near the Iranian border.

Iran has accused them of espionage, but the hikers and their families say they aren’t spies but instead were detained after they accidentally crossed an unmarked border into Iran.

Iran released Shourd, 32, who is engaged to Bauer, last September because she was in poor health. Shourd announced in May that she would not return to Iran for a trial because she is suffering from depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Iran President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told NBC’s Today Show on Tuesday that he thinks Bauer and Fattal “will be freed in a couple of days.”

At a news conference Thursday at the Presidio of San Francisco Golden Gate Club, Clinton said, “We continue to hope that the two young Americans will be released as part of a humanitarian gesture by the Iranian Government.”

Clinton said, “We have seen in the past some delays that have occurred after decisions were announced, so that–at this point, we are not at all concerned, because we have received word through a number of sources, publicly and privately, that the decision will be executed on and that we will see their return to their families.”

Referring to reports of a rift between Ahmadinejad and Iran’s judiciary that could slow down the possible release of Bauer and Fattal, Clinton said, “I’m not going to speculate” about the delay.

She said, “I’m going to count on the Iranian Government fulfilling the announcement that was made by the leadership of the country, and hope that it can be expedited and we can see their release very soon.”

Joining Clinton at the news conference, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said, “I concur with Secretary Clinton’s description of that situation. It’s very difficult for us to try to speculate as to the differences and battles that are going on in the political leadership within Iran and to really understand just exactly what the nature of that is.”

Panetta said, “Our goal here is to try to get these hikers released, and we’ve been assured that steps will be taken to make that happen, and we hope that does – that is the case.”

Clinton’s remarks came at a meeting of the Australia-United States Ministerial Consultations, which is known as AUSMIN for short.

The meeting this year celebrated the 60th anniversary of the ANZUS Treaty, a military alliance that binds Australia, New Zealand and the U.S.

Clinton was also in San Francisco to attend the Asian-Pacific Economic Cooperation Conference’s Women’s and the Economy Summit earlier today.

Jeff Shuttleworth, Bay City News

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