Iran denies talks about releasing prisoners

Tehran, May 3 (IANS): The Iranian Foreign Ministry on Monday dismissed a report that Tehran is preparing to free five prisoners in exchange for access to bank accounts that have long been frozen due to diplomatic disputes with the UK and the US.

"As a rule, we don't confirm reports and statements by so-called informed sources," dpa news agency quoted Ministry spokesperson Saeid Khatibzadeh as saying.

The comments were prompted by a report by Lebanese broadcaster Al-Mayadeen, which reported on Sunday that Iran is poised to free five people, all with dual citizenship in either the UK or the US, for access to funds that have long been frozen because of ongoing diplomatic disputes about Iran's nuclear and missile programmes.

The report, which the authors said was based on information from informed sources, was cited in Iranian media several times at the weekend.

Although Al-Mayadeen did not name the prisoners, it is believed that the four Americans refer to three business executives and one environmental activist incarcerated in Iran.

According to the report, their freedom would give access to 7 billion dollars currently frozen.

The fifth person is allegedly Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who also has British citizenship and was recently released after five years in detention.

But she was quickly sentenced again to another year in jail for participating in a demonstration 12 years ago.

According to the report, the UK was prepared to free up 400 million pounds out of frozen accounts in exchange for Zaghari-Ratcliffe's freedom.

Khatibzadeh said there was no link between the frozen funds and any talks about releasing prisoners.

However, he did say there are routine conversations with the US about the status of the prisoners.

London and Washington have already denied the report.

The two countries have routinely accused Iran of using the prisoners as leverage in an effort to regain access to the frozen funds, a charge Iran regularly denies.



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