In addition announcing the launch of a research rocket, three Iranian-made satellites, and a tactical shift on a proposed International Atomic Energy Agency deal on uranium, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad threw another disingenuous curve ball yesterday by claiming that talks were underway with the United States for an exchange of prisoners.

In an interview on state television Tuesday, Ahmadinejad was asked about the fate of three American hikers detained in Iran and claimed that the United States, not Iran, was at fault: “They have arrested our citizens for nothing… this is very bad… now there are talks whether it is possible to do an exchange” of prisoners.

The White House on Tuesday denied it had held “any discussion” with Iran about a possible prisoner swap. Iran is holding a number of US citizens in custody, including three American hikers — Sarah Shourd, Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer — arrested after mistakenly wandering over the Iraq border into Iranian territory last year. Iran has repeatedly rejected outside efforts to gain access to the three hikers to confirm that they are being held in good conditions.

Among the 11 Iranians that Iran alleges are “illegally” detained in the United States is nuclear scientist Shahram Amiri who disappeared in Saudi Arabia while on pilgrimage to Mecca last year. Iranian officials have accused Washington of kidnapping Amiri from Saudi Arabia, but the scientist, like others on Iran’s list, is believed to have defected from the increasingly repressive regime in Tehran. In addition to asserting a false equivalence between defectors and innocent hikers, Iran’s dictatorship also undoubtedly hopes to suggest that it is engaged in ongoing talks with the Obama Administration in order to demoralize the opposition movement which spontaneously sprang up to protest Iran’s sham elections last June. The opposition Green Movement has called for further demonstrations, including on the February 11th anniversary of Iran’s Islamist revolution.