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Iran says prisoner swap deal is close but US disputes claim

Iran’s overseas minister has stated Tehran is within the closing levels of negotiating a prisoner swap with the US, claiming progress on a extremely delicate and vital deal that was instantly disputed by Washington.

Hossein Amirabdollahian instructed state tv on Sunday that the 2 international locations have been on the cusp of exchanging prisoners regardless of tensions rising in current months over nuclear points and ties with Russia.

“We now have reached an settlement in current days, and if all the pieces goes properly on the American facet, I believe we’ll witness a prisoner swap within the short-term,” he stated. “So far as we’re involved all the pieces is prepared.”

However persevering with diplomatic challenges have been underlined when the White Home dismissed the suggestion of an imminent deal. A spokesperson for the US Nationwide Safety Council stated Iranian statements concerning a deal have been “one other particularly merciless lie that solely provides to the struggling of [the prisoners’] households”.

“We’re working relentlessly to safe the discharge of the three wrongfully detained People in Iran,” the spokesperson stated. “We won’t cease till they’re reunited with their family members.”

The Islamic Republic, which holds at the very least three Iranian-American twin nationals in its prisons, has lengthy stated it’s prepared for a prisoner swap so long as any deal releases Iranian funds held in South Korea.

Greater than $7bn of Iran’s oil income has been frozen in two South Korean banks due to American sanctions imposed after former president Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from the 2015 nuclear accord Iran signed with world powers.

A senior western diplomat in Tehran stated the potential for a prisoner swap had new “momentum”.

One other individual briefed on the discussions stated no closing deal had been reached however progress had been made. Discussions have been nonetheless being held on how the funds can be launched, the individual added.

President Joe Biden may face a backlash domestically and from Center East allies, notably Israel, if his administration is seen to authorise billions of {dollars} being transferred to the regime.

One possibility can be for the funds to be held in an account by Qatar to make sure their use for non-sanctioned items for Iran, similar to drugs and meals, the individual briefed on the talks stated. It’s unclear whether or not the discharge of any Iranian prisoners within the US was amongst Tehran’s calls for.

Negotiations over a doable prisoner swap have been held in September on the time of the UN Common Meeting assembly in New York. Qatar, which has good relations with each Washington and Tehran, helped facilitate the talks, diplomats say.

The next month, Tehran quickly launched Siamak Namazi, an Iranian-American businessman, and lifted the journey ban on his 85-year-old father, Baquer. However the diplomatic efforts have been scuppered because the regime cracked down on nationwide protests and it was accused of promoting armed drones to Moscow, which Russian forces have used of their battle in Ukraine.

Iranian analysts stated disappointment was felt within the regime, which is below mounting social and financial stress, that the discharge of Baquer Namazi didn’t result in frozen funds being launched.

Any prisoner swap would come in opposition to the backdrop of mounting tensions between the Islamic republic and US and European powers.

Iran is below tons of of US sanctions, which have lower Tehran off from the worldwide monetary system and frozen billions of {dollars} in oil income. Western states, in the meantime, have been infuriated by Iran’s crackdown on the protests final yr and its choice to promote drones to Moscow.

Additionally they blamed Iran for stymieing efforts to revive the 2015 nuclear deal. Tehran rejected an EU draft settlement to save lots of the accord in September that each one different signatories had endorsed. Analysts stated a profitable prisoner swap may assist lay the foundations for talks to restart.