WASHINGTON/TEHRAN- The United States on Sunday denied claims by Iran that a prisoner swap agreement had been reached, the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports.
A NAN correspondent who monitored the news reports that the State Department spokesperson Ned Price told CNN that the claim of a deal is “a cruel lie”.
“Statements from Iranian officials that a deal regarding the exchange of prisoners has been reached are another especially cruel lie that only adds to the suffering of their families,” Price said.
He added, “We are working relentlessly to secure the release of the three wrongfully detained Americans in Iran.
“We will not stop until they are reunited with their loved ones.”
Furthermore, a White House National Security Council spokesperson also said “claims by Iranian officials that we have reached a deal for the release of the U.S. citizens wrongfully held by Iran are false”.
Earlier, Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said Sunday that his country reached an agreement with the United States concerning prisoners’ exchange.
“We have reached an agreement in recent days regarding the exchange of prisoners between Iran and the United States,” Amir-Abdollahian told Iran’s state broadcaster IRINN.
The deal had been “signed and approved indirectly” last year, he added in a televised interview, saying the “American side is making its last technical arrangements” ahead of implementation.
“In our opinion, everything is ready,” the minister said. “If everything goes well on the American side, I think we will witness the exchange of prisoners in the short term.”
A White House security spokesperson denied this, saying Iranian officials did not hesitate to “make things up”. The latest claim would cause heartache for affected families, they added.
While insisting the claim was false, the US spokesperson said Washington was committed to securing the release of Americans held in Iran — naming Siamak Namazi, Emad Shargi and Morad Tahbaz.
Morad Tahbaz and fellow conservationists were using cameras to track endangered species when they were arrested in Iran
Oil executive Siamak Namazi, who has dual US-Iranian citizenship, was jailed for 10 years on charges of spying and cooperating with the US government in 2016.
Emad Shargi is an Iranian-American businessman who was arrested in 2018 while working for a tech investment company.
Iranian-American environmentalist Morad Tahbaz, who also holds British citizenship, was given a 10-year sentence on charges of spying for the US and undermining Iranian security in 2019.
He was released on bail last July with an electronic bracelet — with UK officials saying they were working with the US to secure his “permanent release”.
Iran has detained a number of US-Iranian dual citizens and Iranians with US permanent residency in recent years, most of them on spying charges.
Tehran has sought the release of more than a dozen Iranians in the United States for years, including seven Iranian-American dual nationals, two Iranians with permanent US residency and four Iranian citizens with no legal status in the United States.
In 2019 the two countries conducted a prisoner swap which saw Chinese-American researcher Xiyue Wang released to the U.S. while stem cell expert Massoud Soleimani went in the other direction. — Agencies. (NAN)