Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad yesterday called on the United States to release eight Iranians who he said were being held illegally, noting that his country made a humanitarian gesture last week in releasing an American woman held since July 2009.


Ahmadinejad, who arrived in New York yesterday to attend the annual U.N. General Assembly meeting, also played down the impact of sanctions imposed by the international community on Iran over its nuclear activities.


Iran on Sept. 14 released Sarah Shourd, 32, one of three Americans held in Iran for more than a year on suspicion of espionage. She arrived back in the United States yesterday and, in a news conference later in the day, denied that she and her friends were spies.