The country of Oman has sent a plane to Iran in anticipation of the release of two U.S. citizens convicted of spying in the country. An anonymous Omani Foreign Ministry official told Reuters that the two men could be released within 24 hours.
"We are still waiting for the final word about taking the Americans to Muscat with our plane now in Tehran. Hard to say when that will happen, perhaps in the next 24 hours, but we are hopeful it will happen soon," the official said.
Oman sent the plane Thursday after its ruler, Sultan Qaboos, "received assurances from Iran about flying the two Americans to the Omani capital Muscat to be handed over to the U.S. embassy."
The Iranian government has made conflicting comments this week about the release of the two men, Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal. On Tuesday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced that Iran would free the men on humanitarian grounds in "a couple of days." But on Wednesday, a government official told Iran's English language Press TV that no decision had yet been made.
According to Reuters, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Thursday that the U.S. remained hopeful that the men would be released, and that she was not too concerned about the delay.
Bauer and Fattal were arrested along with another America, Sarah Shourd, in 2009, after being found in Iran near the border with Iraq. The trio said they were hiking. Shourd was released for health reasons in September 2010 on $500,000 bail. She did not return to Iran to face trial. In August, Bauer and Fattal were convicted of illegal entry and spying and sentenced to eight years in prison.
On Tuesday, a lawyer for the two men, who are being held in Tehran's Evin prison, announced that they would be released on $500,000 bail each.