USA denies Iran state media report saying prisoner swap agreed

UK downplays reported release of ‘torture’ victim Zaghari-Ratcliffe

UK downplays reported release of ‘torture’ victim Zaghari-Ratcliffe

The United States on Sunday denied a report by Iran's state television that the arch-foes had reached a prisoner swap deal in exchange for the release of $7 billion frozen Iranian oil funds under US sanctions in other countries.

The release of the Iranian frozen assets by the United States government shows the case of Jason Rezaian is repeated.

In a statement to the Associated Press, a State Department spokesperson said reports of its agreement "are not true".

Ron Klain, White House chief of staff, also denied the report. "We raise this with Iran and our interlocutors all the time, but so far there's no agreement".

On Sunday, Iranian state TV had reported that Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe could be released from prison once the United Kingdom pays an outstanding £400 million "military debt".

Officials in Washington did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

"Iran has always emphasized the comprehensive exchange of prisoners between the two countries", he said, without elaborating.

The state TV, quoting an unidentified 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 Tehran.

She was sentenced last week to an additional year in prison, her lawyer said, on charges of spreading "propaganda against the system" for participating in a protest in front of the Iranian Embassy in London in 2009.

The UK Foreign Office said the British government is continuing "to explore options" to resolve the case.

British officials played down the report.

Dominic Raab told the BBC's Andrew Marr that Iran had an to release Mrs Zaghari Ratcliffe 'immediately and without condition'
Dominic Raab told the BBC's Andrew Marr that Iran had an obligation to release Mrs Zaghari Ratcliffe 'immediately and without condition'

The talks "led to an agreement to release Nazanin Zaghari by Tehran, who is accused of spying for British intelligence, in exchange for London freeing £400 million of Iranian money", sources said.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe was initially detained while on holiday in Iran in 2016, when she was working as a project manager for the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the news agency and data firm's philanthropic wing.

She has already served five years in prison after being arrested on national security charges at Tehran airport in 2016 while making her way back to the UK.

Her husband, Richard Ratcliffe, said the family had not been updated but welcomed the signals from Tehran over the long-running dispute as "a good sign". "Of course we probably wouldn't, but my instinct is to be sceptical at present".

Mr Raab went on to stress that her imprisonment was "not solely" related to the arms debt.

"I think it amounts to torture the way she's being treated", Mr Raab told the BBC's Andrew Marr programme.

"We've said that debt is something we want to have resolved", he said.

Khamenei did slam remarks made by Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in a leaked audio recording, saying they were a "big mistake". That conflict only has grown sharper as Iran approaches its June 18 presidential election.

Tehran is now negotiating with world powers over both it and the US returning to the nuclear deal, which saw it limit its uranium enrichment in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions.

"But it feels part of the negotiations rather than the end of them". "I don't think Nazanin would have been sentenced if we were".

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