‘Not a ransom’: White House defends US-Iran prisoner swap deal

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The White House denied Wednesday that the unfreezing of $6 billion of Iranian funds to help secure the release of five US citizens was effectively a ransom payment.

The United States on Monday waived sanctions to allow the transfer of $6 billion in Iranian funds from South Korea to Qatar, a step needed to carry out a previously announced US-Iran prisoner swap, according to a US document seen by Reuters.

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“This is not a payment of any kind. It’s not a ransom,” said White House national security spokesman John Kirby, pushing back against criticism of the deal.

Kirby said the money will be held in a supervised account in Qatar that Tehran will have to submit requests to draw funds to be used strictly for humanitarian purposes.

“The Iranian people will be the beneficiaries of these funds, not the regime” in Tehran, he said.

Kirby said the US was not lifting any sanctions on Iran with the deal, and stressed that the goal was to repatriate Americans unjustifiably detained in Iran.

“Getting Americans home requires decisions, sometimes really tough decisions,” he added.

Read more:

US will be able to freeze Iranian funds transferred to Qatar if needed

Five US citizens detained in Iran are ‘in full health’: Raisi

US has not changed policy on Iran after prisoner deal: Top US diplomat

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