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Published: Thursday, 3/11/2010

3 hikers held by Iran phone home


MINNEAPOLIS - Cindy Hickey had rehearsed what she would say to her son when she finally got to talk to him months after he was detained in Iran. When the time came, the conversation lasted only about a minute, she said, "so it was hard to say a lot."

But Ms. Hickey came away from the phone call hopeful that her son, Shane Bauer, and two other Americans held for nearly eight months in Iran will be home soon.

"The next time I hear his voice I'd like it to be in person," Ms. Hickey, of Pine City, Minn., said yesterday.

Ms. Hickey said it was "exciting to hear this voice after not having his condition confirmed for over four months."

"The first thing he said was: 'Mom, this is Shane. I love you, I miss you, I'm strong. How are you?'•" Ms. Hickey said.

Ms. Hickey said Mr. Bauer, 27, asked how everyone at home was doing and expressed concern for his two sisters.

"He sounded strong. He was talking very fast," said Ms. Hickey, who said she assumed the call was monitored. "He sounded determined. It was very good to hear that strength in his voice."

The families of Sarah Shourd and Josh Fattal also said they received calls Tuesday and all reported being well. In a statement, the families called the conversations "a tremendous relief."

"The first thing she said was, 'Mom, it's me,'•" Nora Shourd said about her conversation with her daughter. "She said, 'They're giving me the chance and I'm calling you from prison. I want you to know I love you, I'm OK, and I'm coping.'•"

The families say Mr. Bauer, Ms. Shourd, 31, and Mr. Fattal, 27, were hiking in Iraq's northern Kurdistan region in July when they accidentally crossed the border into Iran.

Iran says the three are spies. U.S. officials are calling for the hikers' release. The State Department yesterday called the phone calls a positive development, but said the U.S. was still seeking access to the three through the Swiss Embassy.

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