Iran hints it will help free US hostages in Iraq as part of prisoner exchange

After denying it had any connection or information related to the January 15 kidnapping of three Americans in Baghdad, Iran hinted on Monday that it could facilitate their release.  In his weekly press conference, the spokesman of the Iranian Foreign Ministry, Hossein Jaber Ansari, said "If Iran is able to help, it will do so," adding that "it would be on humanitarian grounds" like the recent prisoner swap with the US.  
In other words, Tehran will only be ready to help free the hostages if Washington promises to free Iranians incarcerated in the US, as it did in this month's prisoner exchange.
DEBKAfile's sources in the Persian Gulf report that the spokesman's comments hint that the two countries are engaged in secret negotiations for the release of the Americans, who are being held by an Iraqi Shiite militia with close ties to Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps.   

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