President George W. Bush is calling on Iran to release "immediately and unconditionally" four Iranian-American citizens detained by the Iranian government. Mr. Bush is also demanding information about a fifth American who disappeared in Iran in March.
The four Iranian-Americans are scholars Haleh Esfandiari and Kian Tajbakhsh, peace activist Ali Shakeri, and journalist Parnaz Azima. In a statement, President Bush said they "are being held against their will by the Iranian regime. I strongly condemn their detention at the hands of Iranian authorities."
Mr. Bush said that the four pose no threat to the government of Iran. He called them individuals dedicated "to building bridges between the American and Iranian people."
Mr. Bush also said he is disturbed by the Iranian government's refusal to provide any information on Robert Levinson. Mr. Levinson is an American who traveled to Iran on private business.
U.S. National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley said the detention of American citizens by Iran is one of a number of destructive behaviors that is "contrary to our interests, contrary to stability in the region. . .contrary to the long-range interests of the Iranian people." Mr. Hadley cited other destructive Iranian government actions:
"It is their support for terror, their pursuit of nuclear aspirations to have a nuclear weapon in defiance of the international community, their disruption of the efforts by the Iraqi people to stabilize their government, their support for [the radical Islamic terrorist group] Hezbollah worldwide and the pressure they are putting on the legitimate government in Lebanon."
National Security Advisor Hadley also cited the crackdown by the Iranian government on democracy advocates in Iran.
Mr. Hadley says the behavior of the Iranian government in regard to American citizens in Iran "underscores the character of this regime. And it underscores the problem we have for those people who say, 'Why don't you talk to Iran?' It is a good reminder," said U.S. National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley, "of how difficult this regime is, and of the kinds of policies it's pursuing."