US, Iran both deny reports of pending prisoner swap

Iranian television report had claimed the countries would exchange four prisoners each and the U.S. would hand over $7 billion to Iran.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

The Iranian Foreign Ministry on Monday denied that Iran and the United States had reached an agreement to exchange prisoners in which the U.S. would also hand over $7 billion to the Islamic State.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh told reporters a report by the al-Mayadeen news network in Lebanon was not true, although Reuters and AP both reported that on Sunday Iranian television had broadcast a report saying the countries would each release four prisoners and the U.S. would release $7 billion in frozen Iranian assets.

“The issue of prisoners has been a humanitarian issue which has always been on the agenda of the Islamic Republic of Iran and has been pursued through other conversations and [diplomatic] channels separately from the JCPOA or related issues,” Khatibzadeh said in comments reported by Iran’s state-run Press TV.

In Washington, State Department spokesman Ned Price also rejected the report, saying the Americans had not agreed to any such deal.

“Reports that a prisoner swap deal has been reached are not true,” Price said. “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.”

Veteran AP diplomatic affairs reporters Matthew Lee and Eric Tucker noted that the Iranian television report might be “a move by the hard-liners running the Iranian broadcaster to disrupt negotiations with the West amid talks in Vienna on Tehran’s tattered nuclear deal.”

Talks between Iran and major powers resume this week in a bid to get America back into the 2015 nuclear deal that former President Donald Trump pulled out of in 2018, imposing new economic sanctions on Iran. Over the past year the Iranians started violating the agreement that is aimed at preventing them from producing nuclear weapons.

Iran is insisting that the U.S. cancel all sanctions imposed by Trump before they will stop illegally enriching uranium to high purity, a short step away from nuclear weapons grade material. The Biden administration has so far insisted that Iran first stop violating the agreement and then the sanctions will be lifted.

Last month it appeared that the Americans were beginning to capitulate to the Iranian demands, with indications that many of the anti-terrorism sanctions imposed on Iran might be rolled back to encourage the Iranians to comply.

At the talks being hosted in Vienna, the Iranians are refusing to sit in the same room with the American diplomats, who are forced to send messages back and forth to the Iranian delegation.