The US has rejected a claim which was broadcasted on Iranian public TV saying Tehran and Washington had reached an agreement on a prisoner swap.
The Swap was claimed to be agreed in return for the release of $US7 billion frozen Iranian oil reserves held in other countries due to US sanctions.
Iran’s state media reported on Sunday that Tehran would release four Americans suspected of espionage in exchange for the release of four Iranians detained in the US and the unfreezing of frozen Iranian assets.
According to Iran’s national television, British-Iranian national Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe will be also released after the United Kingdom pays a debt owed to Tehran for military equipment.
However, the British Foreign Office official dismissed the news, and the US government denied there had been any deal. Majid Takht Ravanchi, Iran’s UN envoy, said the claim could not be authenticated, adding that Tehran has always demanded a complete prisoner swap with Washington.
The announcement has a special importance nowadays, since Iran and western nations are meeting to discuss resurrecting the 2015 nuclear deal, which the US pulled out of three years ago and reimposed sanctions on Tehran.
Last month, Iranian officials told Reuters that a temporary agreement could be a choice to purchase time for a long-term agreement that included the unfreezing of Iranian assets frozen 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’,” said the Iranian state TV on Sunday.
“Release of Nazanin Zaghari in exchange for UK’s payment of its 400 million pound ($715 million) debt to Iran has also been finalised. The source also said the Biden administration has agreed to pay Iran $US7 billion ($9 billion),” it added.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe was sentenced to an extra year in jail last week for engaging in a rally in front of the Iranian Embassy in London in 2009, on allegations of spreading “propaganda against the system.”
However the news were declined in US and the State Department spokesman Ned Price said: “Reports that a prisoner swap deal has been reached are not true.”
Ron Klain, the White House chief of staff also announced that “Unfortunately, that report is untrue. We’re working very hard to get them released. But so far, there is no agreement to release these four Americans.”
Since early April, Tehran and the powers have been meeting in Vienna to discuss the measures that must be taken to get Tehran and Washington back into full accordance with the 2015 agreement, including US sanctions and possible violations of the deal. But US national security advisor Jake Sullivan reported that no agreement with Iran had been achieved in Vienna.
“There is still a fair distance to travel to close the remaining gaps. And those gaps are over what sanctions the United States and other countries will roll back. They are over what nuclear restrictions Iran will accept on its program to ensure that they can never get a nuclear weapon,” he said.
Iran claims that US sanctions have blocked $25.9 billion of its oil sales in countries such as South Korea, Iraq, and China since 2018.
Although no formal plan for an exchange has been made to officials in Washington, the details of Iran’s sources indicate that working-level analysis of an agreement is at least ongoing. Nuclear negotiations between Iran and the world powers started last month with the United States, under Biden administration, determined to roll back the 2015 JCPOA from which Trump administration stepped out in 2018. Iran also started step by step withdrawal with increasing Uranium enrichment rate and re-starting some other nuclear activities limited under JCPOA.