U.S. hopeful for release of two American hikers from Iranian jail

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says she is hopeful that two American hikers convicted of spying in Iran will soon be released.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has told a correspondent for the American television network NBC that he thinks Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal will be freed on humanitarian grounds within "a couple of days", BBC reports.

The State Department says it has not received any official confirmation that the men are to be released and is dealing with the matter through Switzerland, which represents the U.S. in Iran.

Clinton said the Obama administration hopes to see a "positive outcome", Voice of America reports.

The families of the two hikers say they are "overjoyed" at the prospect of their release, saying it is a "huge relief", Voice of America reports.

Bauer and Fatal were sentenced last month to eight-year prison terms for the spying charges.

VOA reports:

Iran freed a third hiker, Sarah Shourd, a year ago after she posted a $500,000 bond and she returned to the United States. The lawyer for Bauer and Fattal said Tuesday bail for the two men had also been set at $500,000.

Iranian authorities arrested the three American hikers in the Iran-Iraq border area in mid-2009. The trio has insisted that if they strayed over the border into Iran, it was inadvertent.

Supporters of the hikers denounced their sentences, saying Iranian prosecutors had presented no credible evidence against them.

The apparent humanitarian gesture appeared to be an attempt by the Iranian present move "to cast him in a more positive light" as he prepares to attend the United Nations General Assembly next week, the New York Times reports.

There have been calls for the men's release from such prominent people as Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and the group Amnesty International.