Iran foreign ministry denies US hostage swap imminent
Iran’s foreign ministry says a state television report on prisoner swaps with the United States cannot be confirmed as a political rift widens ahead of presidential elections in June, reports Aljazeera.
Foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said on Monday that the report could not be confirmed and that the issue of swapping prisoners is being reviewed by both sides.
The state-run broadcaster had quoted an unnamed official on Sunday as saying four Iranian prisoners held in the US for circumventing sanctions would be swapped with four American dual nationals in Iran, and $7bn in frozen Iranian funds will be released.
Khatibzadeh added that Iran continues to stand by its demand to unfreeze all its assets that are blocked in several countries because of unilateral US sanctions.
The state TV report also said British-Iranian national Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe would be released when Britain pays off a decades-old debt of 400 million pounds ($553m) it owed Tehran.
Both the US Department of State and the British Foreign Office rejected the state TV report on Sunday.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who recently completed a five-year sentence on spying charges, received another one-year sentence and was put on the no-fly list last week on charges of spreading “propaganda against the system” for participating in a protest in front of the Iranian embassy in London in 2009.
UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said on Sunday he believes Zaghari-Ratcliffe is being held “unlawfully” and her treatment amounts to “torture”.