TEHERAN – Iran’s top diplomat on Sunday said “everything is ready” to implement a stalled prisoner exchange deal with the United States, which Washington promptly denied as a “cruel lie”.

At least three US citizens are held in the country’s prisons, according to Iran’s judiciary and the US State Department.

“We have reached an agreement in recent days regarding the exchange of prisoners between Iran and the United States,” Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian told state broadcaster IRINN.

The deal had been “signed and approved indirectly” last year, he added in a televised interview, saying the “American side is making its last technical arrangements” ahead of implementation.

“In our opinion, everything is ready,” the minister said.

“If everything goes well on the American side, I think we will witness the exchange of prisoners in the short term.”

State Department spokesman Ned Price called Amir-Abdollahian’s claim that a deal had been reached “another especially cruel lie that only adds to the suffering of their (the prisoners’) families”.

“We are working relentlessly to secure the release of the three wrongfully detained Americans in Iran,” Price added.

In October, Iranian media said a prisoner swop agreed by Teheran and Washington included the unfreezing of Iranian funds abroad, but Amir-Abdollahian on Sunday made no mention of that.

Espionage charges

The foreign minister’s remarks came two days after a CNN interview with Siamak Namazi, an Iranian-American businessman held in Teheran’s Evin prison since 2015.

Namazi, 51, was blocked from leaving the country during a visit and later sentenced to 10 years in jail on charges of collaborating with a foreign government.

He denies the accusations, which US officials have called groundless.




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