US rejects Iran claims of prisoner swap as ‘false’

“Unfortunately, Iranian officials will not hesitate to make things up, and the latest cruel claim will cause more heartache for the families of Siamak Namazi, Emad Shargi, and Morad Tahbaz,” a National Security Council official told Al Arabiya English.

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The US has denied a claim that Iran plans to release three American prisoners in exchange for the release of frozen funds.

Iran’s top diplomat said Sunday that a deal was close to being finalized, but did not elaborate.

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“Unfortunately, Iranian officials will not hesitate to make things up, and the latest cruel claim will cause more heartache for the families of Siamak Namazi, Emad Shargi, and Morad Tahbaz,” a National Security Council official told Al Arabiya English.

The official added that the US remained committed to securing the freedom of Siamak Namazi, Emad Sharghi, and Morad Tahbaz, “but we have nothing to announce at this time.”

The news of an imminent deal came shortly after Saudi Arabia and Iran agreed to restore ties and after Iranian officials were in Oman at the weekend. Muscat has long played a role as a mediator between Washington and Tehran.

A source familiar with the talks told Al Arabiya English that Iran would release Siamak Namazi, Morad Tahbaz, and Emad Sharghi. In return, they said that the US is expected to release Iranian funds frozen in South Korea, Iraq and Japan plus at least one prisoner.

However, the source said, the Iranians to be released were not expected to be prominent, such as Manssor Arbabsiar, who was charged in the US for an alleged plot to assassinate a Saudi diplomat in 2011.

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian earlier told state TV that Iran and the United States have reached an agreement to exchange prisoners, adding that he hoped the exchange would take place soon.

“Regarding the issue of prisoner swaps between Iran and the US we have reached an agreement in the recent days and if everything goes well on the US side, I think we will witness a prisoner exchange in a short period,” Amirabdollahian said.

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

Namazi, a businessman with dual US-Iranian citizenship, was sentenced in 2016 to 10 years in prison for spying and cooperating with the US government.

Sharghi, an Iranian-American businessman was first arrested in 2018 when he was working for a tech investment company, is also jailed in Iran, as is Iranian-American environmentalist Tahbaz, who also holds British citizenship.

Iranian sources told Reuters that two regional countries were involved in the series of indirect talks between Tehran and Washington for the release of prisoners.

-With Reuters

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