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Iran says it agrees with US on prisoner swap, Washington denies the claim

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By Parisa Hafezi

DUBAI (RockedBuzz via Reuters) – Iran and the United States have reached a prisoner swap deal, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian said on state TV on Sunday, but Washington denied it was a “false” claim by Tehran.

“Regarding the issue of prisoner exchange between Iran and the United States, we have reached an agreement in the past few days and if all goes well on the US side, I think we will see a prisoner exchange in a short period,” he said Amirabdollahian.

“Everything is ready for our part, while the US is currently working on the final technical coordination”.

A White House official denied Amirabdollahian’s statement about the prisoner swap, but added that the United States was committed to securing the release of Americans detained in Iran.

“The claims by Iranian officials that we have reached an agreement to release Iran’s wrongfully detained US citizens are false,” a White House National Security Council spokesman said.

A source briefed on the talks said the prisoner swap was “closer than it’s ever been,” but one of the remaining sticking points is related to $7 billion in Iranian oil funds frozen under US sanctions in South Korea. .

“The logistics of how these funds will be exchanged and how oversight will be provided are unresolved,” said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the negotiations.

The source added that Qatar and Switzerland have been involved in prisoner exchange talks. Iranian sources told RockedBuzz via Reuters that two countries in the region were involved in the indirect talks between Tehran and Washington.

One of several Americans held in Iran is Siamak Namazi, a businessman with dual US and Iranian citizenship who was sentenced in 2016 to 10 years in prison for espionage and collaboration with the US government.

Emad Sharghi, an Iranian American businessman first arrested in 2018 when he worked for a tech investment firm, is also incarcerated in Iran, as is Iranian American environmentalist Morad Tahbaz, who also holds British citizenship.

For years, Tehran has sought the release of more than a dozen Iranians to the United States, including seven Iranians with dual nationality, two Iranians with US permanent residency, and four Iranian citizens without legal status in the United States.

The Islamic republic, which holds dozens of Iranian dual nationals and foreigners, has been accused by human rights activists of arresting them to try to wring concessions from other countries. Iran has denied the accusation.

Some Iranian media reported last week that Iran had reached a prisoner exchange deal in exchange for the release of the $7 billion in frozen Iranian oil funds.

In 2018, then-US President Donald Trump abandoned a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and six powers and reinstated sanctions that crippled the Islamic Republic’s economy.

The deal had imposed restrictions on Iranian nuclear activities in exchange for the lifting of international sanctions. In reaction to Washington’s sanctions, Tehran has progressively violated the pact limits on its nuclear program.

Indirect talks between Tehran and US President Joe Biden’s administration on reviving the deal have stalled since September. The deal imposed restrictions on Iranian nuclear activities in exchange for the lifting of international sanctions.

(Additional reporting by Elwely Elwelly in Dubai, Moira Warburton in Washington, and Andrew Mills at the Gulf Bureau; Written by Parisa Hafezi; Editing by Hugh Lawson, William Maclean, and Bill Berkrot)