* Obama says “bittersweet” that two Americans still held
* White House calls for “renewed compassion” (Refiles to add dropped word in first paragraph) (Adds Obama will press for release of two other Americans; comment from Ahmadinejad; byline, background)
By JoAnne Allen
WASHINGTON, Sept 30 (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama met on Thursday with Sarah Shourd, an American hiker who was detained for more than a year in Iran, and vowed to press for the release of two U.S. men who are still being detained by the Iranian government, the White House said.
Shourd, 32, was released this month after being held with two friends on suspicion of spying after crossing into Iran from Iraq. She left the country on Sept. 14 after being released on bail.
In a meeting with Shourd, her mother and the mothers of the two hikers still detained in Iran, Obama stressed the administration would continue to do everything it could to secure their release, the White House said in a statement.
“The president noted that this occasion remains bittersweet,” the statement said. “Sarah’s fiance Shane Bauer and their friend Josh Fattal are still in detention in Iran.
“We remain hopeful that Iran will demonstrate renewed compassion and do the right thing by ensuring the safe return of Shane, Josh and all the other missing or detained Americans in Iran,” the statement said.
Shourd was detained near the Islamic Republic’s border with Iraq in July 2009 along with Bauer and Fattal.
At a news conference after she was released, Shourd said they were innocent hikers who never intended to cross into Iran.
Under Iran’s Islamic law, espionage can be punished by execution. The case has further complicated relations between Tehran and Washington, which are strained over Iran’s nuclear program.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has called on the United States to release eight Iranians who he said were being held illegally, noting that his country had made a humanitarian gesture in releasing Shourd.
Ahmadinejad, speaking through a translator in an interview on the ABC program “This Week” on Sept. 19, gave no indication of when Bauer and Fattal may be released. (Reporting by JoAnne Allen; Editing by Eric Walsh and Bill Trott)