TODAY

TODAY   |  September 13, 2011

Ahmadinejad: Jailed hikers to be freed

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad tells TODAY's Ann Curry that two Americans given eight-year prison sentences for spying and entering the country illegally will be released soon.

Share This:

This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> with ann 's exclusive interview with iran 's president mahmoud ahmadinejad and word that the american hikers detained in tehr tehran , in a tehran prison, could be freed very soon. ann is in tehran with the details. i know you spoke with that president about a wide range of subjects, but this is the topic that's making the headlines. talk to me about it.

>> reporter: you're absolutely right, matt. good morning. the president in a 45-minute interview basically told us in response to a question that he personally has organize the release of the two remaining american hikers, talking about josh fattal and shane bauer. he said it will happen, in his word, in a couple of days as a humanitarian gesture. he talked about what he said were a number of iranians that were being held in american prisons and he was clearly talking about the need for the united states to step up and release iranians . we can also tell you the families of these two american hikers have said that they are hopeful upon hearing this news that about the words you are now about to hear from iran 's president. many americans want to know how it could be that iran could sentence the two young hikers, josh fattal and shane bauer, to eight years in prison? for spying. what is the evidence against them?

>> translator: they illegally crossed our borders, and they were arrested by the border guards , but we tried last year to free one of the three persons, and we are also trying to make arrangement for their freedom, for the freedom of the other two. i think these two persons will be freed in a couple of days.

>> in a couple of days?

>> translator: yes. in a couple of days. they will be free, but let me ask a question. are they really the problem? you know how many iranians are now in the american jails? there are hundreds. it's not about only two people in iran . these two people are having the very good conditions here in prison. it's like staying in a hotel. i think the problem is in the approach of the american politicians and leaders. why the american leaders are so hostile against us. okay. these two persons will be released. it is going to be over. we do it, for example, in a humanitarian gesture. is it going to solve the problems? i hope so.

>> just on monday the head of the international atomic energy agency announced plans to publish new information that he says shows that iran may be working on a nuclear warhead . he said he is, quote, deeply concerned. is iran working on a nuclear warhead ?

>> translator: this is an old and repeated story. first of all, we are against nuclear weapons because it is against our beliefs and ideology.

>> then simply put, is your answer no?

>> translator: we do not need nuclear weapons and we do not accept that. we are against that.

>> so, but to the question is iran building nuclear warheads , is the answer yes or is it no, with all due respect? we do not need it. what is our need to do it?

>> so your answer is no.

>> translator: that's right. certainly.

>> in our interview two years ago you said about president obama i very much hope that the gentleman will move toward fundamental change and we are waiting for those changes to come about. what is your message to president obama today?

>> translator: president obama was in the presidential elections and he had some slogans and we weren't happy about it, but many people were disappointed. i ask you and the people of the united states to what expect they hope about real reforms by him. what has changed the united states ? what policies? did they change policies in afghanistan or iraq or in the hostility against iran ? what has changed, really?

>> reporter: while criticizing both the united states and also britain, the president ahmadinejad also made it clear he is looking for improved relations with the west. he'll be speaking on the world stage before the u.n. general assembly in 11 days and we'll have more of our interview on nbc "nightly news" and posted online in it's entirety.

>> we look forward to that, ann . thank you very much.