US denies Iran state media report saying prisoner swap agreed

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DUBAI (REUTERS) – The United States on Sunday(May 2) denied a report by Iran’s state television that the arch-foes had reached a prisoner swap deal in exchange for the release of US$7 billion (S$9.3 billion) frozen Iranian oil funds under US sanctions in other countries.

Iranian state television said on Sunday that Teheran would free four Americans accused of spying in exchange for four Iranians held in the United States and the release of US$7 billion in frozen Iranian funds.

The US government denied that an exchange was in the works.

The state TV, quoting an unnamed Iranian official, also said British-Iranian national Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe would be released once Britain had paid off a debt on military equipment owed to Teheran.

A British Foreign Office official played down that report.

Iran and world powers are holding talks to revive the 2015 nuclear accord that Washington abandoned three years ago and reimposed sanctions on Teheran.

Iranian officials said last month that an interim deal could be a way to gain time for a lasting settlement that involved unfreezing Iranian funds blocked under US sanctions.

“Informed source says Biden administration has agreed to release four Iranian prisoners jailed for bypassing US sanctions in exchange for four American ‘spies’,” the Iranian state TV report said on Sunday.

“Release of Nazanin Zaghari in exchange for UK’s payment of its £400 million (S$736 million) debt to Iran has also been finalised. The source also said the Biden administration has agreed to pay Iran US$7 billion,” it said.

In Washington, State Department spokesman Ned Price said: “Reports that a prisoner swap deal has been reached are not true”.

“As we have said, we always raise the cases of Americans detained or missing in Iran. We will not stop until we are able to reunite them with their families.”

Mr Ron Klain, White House chief of staff, also denied the report.

“Unfortunately, that report is untrue. There is no agreement to release these four Americans,” Mr Klain said on CBS Face the Nation.

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