© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: USA and Iranian flags are seen in this illustration taken, September 8, 2022. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo
By Parisa Hafezi
DUBAI (Reuters) -Iran and the United States have reached an agreement to exchange prisoners, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian told state TV on Sunday, but Washington denied it as a “false” claim by Tehran.
“Regarding the issue of prisoner exchanges 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.”
A White House official denied Amirabdollahian’s statement about the prisoner swap with Washington, adding that the United States was committed to securing the release of Americans held in Iran.
“Claims by Iranian officials that we have reached a deal for the release of the US citizens wrongfully held by Iran are false,” a spokesperson for the White House National Security Council said.
One of several Americans held in Iran is Siamak Namazi, a businessman with dual US-Iranian citizenship, who was sentenced in 2016 to 10 years in prison for spying and cooperating with the US government.
Emad Sharghi, an Iranian-American businessman who was first arrested in 2018 when he was working for a tech investment company, is also jailed in Iran, as is Iranian-American environmentalist Morad 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.
For years, Tehran has sought the release of more than a dozen Iranians in the United States, including seven Iranian-American dual nationals, two Iranians with permanent US residency and four Iranian citizens with no legal status in the United States.
The Islamic Republic, which is holding dozens of Iranian dual nationals and foreigners, has been accused by rights activists of arresting them to try to extract concessions from other countries. Iran has dismissed the charge.
Some Iranian media reported last week that Iran had reached a prisoner swap deal in exchange for the release of $7 billion in frozen Iranian oil funds under US sanctions in South Korea.
In 2018, then-US president Donald Trump ditched a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and six powers and reimposed sanctions that have crippled the Islamic Republic’s economy.
The deal imposed restrictions on Iran’s nuclear activities in exchange for lifting international sanctions. In reaction to Washington’s sanctions, Tehran has gradually violated the curbs of the pact on its nuclear programme.
Indirect talks between Tehran and President Joe Biden’s administration on reviving the agreement have stalled since September. The deal imposed restrictions on Iran’s nuclear activities in exchange for lifting international sanctions.