By Nike Ching, VOA
STATE DEPARTMENT - U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo vowed Tuesday to bring home American detainees in Iran, saying "the entire United States government" is working "diligently" and is utilizing "every avenue" and "mechanism."
Mike Pompeo on frontpage of Iranian daily Sazandegi
"I mentioned a handful of names yesterday. There are more around the world I
didn't identify in yesterday's remarks," said the chief American diplomat during
his first appearance at the State Department briefing.
In his first major foreign policy address on Monday, Pompeo said Iran had failed to free American detainees, including Baquer Namazi, Siamak Namazi, Xiyue Wang and Bob Levinson, even during a time when Washington gave Tehran sanctions relief under the 2015 nuclear deal.
Pompeo drew a comparison with the U.S.' "frosty relations" with North Korea a few months ago, where three American detainees were later released.
"We are working diligently along every avenue that we can develop to get these folks to return back home, back to their families," he said, responding to a question posed by VOA.
Trump's decision worries families
Families of several Americans held in Iran are worried that the U.S. decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal will make it harder to get their loved ones home safely.
On May 8, U.S. President Donald Trump announced Washington would withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. Under terms of the 2015 accord, Iran agreed to take a number of steps to limit its nuclear program, in exchange for sanctions relief.
The United States has been calling for an immediate and unconditional release of Americans detained or missing in Iran.
One of them is Namazi, who is 81 and said to be in poor health.
"We have been alarmed for some time at his declining health. We know that he's in urgent need of sustained medical care," State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in February. She added that Washington had also renewed its call that Tehran release Baquer Namazi's son, Siamak Namazi, who is also being held.
Change in approach needed?
In August 2016, Wang, a naturalized American citizen from China, was arrested in Iran while researching Persian history for his doctoral thesis at Princeton University. He was sentenced to 10 years on an espionage charge.
Levinson is a former FBI agent who has been missing in Iran for more than a decade.
Iranian officials said they could be open to discussing the prisoner release if the U.S. changed its hostile approach and engaged with Iran in a respectful way.
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