DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Iran’s top diplomat said Sunday that a prisoner swap with the United States was coming, though he offered no evidence to back up his claim. The United States immediately dismissed his comments as a «cruel lie.»
Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian has made similar comments in the past about potential deals with the US over frozen assets abroad and other issues that never came to fruition. Some of those comments appear aimed at shoring up domestic support amid mass protests challenging Iran’s theocracy and supporting the country’s troubled rial currency.
However, in an interview on Sunday with Iranian state television, Amirabdollahian claimed that Iran had «reached an agreement in recent days on the exchange of prisoners between Iran and the United States.»
«If all goes well on the American side, I think we will see the prisoner exchange in the short term,» he added. He claimed that a document between Iran and the US establishing the exchange had been «indirectly signed and approved» since March 2022.
Contacted by The Associated Press, US State Department spokesman Ned Price called the comments «another especially cruel lie that only adds to the suffering of their families.»
“We are working tirelessly to secure the release of the three Americans wrongfully detained in Iran,” Price said. «We will not stop until they are reunited with their loved ones.»
A separate statement from the White House National Security Council also called the comments «false.»
«Unfortunately, Iranian officials will not hesitate to make things up, and the latest callous claim will cause further distress to the families of Siamak Namazi, Emad Shargi and Morad Tahbaz,» the council said.
Iran has long taken prisoners with Western passports or ties to use in negotiations with foreign nations.
Right now, at least three US citizens are known to be being held in Iranian prisons on widely controversial espionage charges.
The evidence against him has never been made public. All of the detainees have dual American and Iranian citizenship, something Tehran does not recognize.
In recent days, however, Iranian American detainee Siamak Namazi has been allowed to conduct an interview with CNN from Tehran’s notorious Evin prison, something that would not have happened without the acquiescence of security forces.
Meanwhile, Ali Bagheri Kani, an Iranian deputy foreign minister who has handled nuclear talks with world powers, traveled on Sunday to Oman, a longtime interlocutor between Tehran and Washington.
Amirabdollahian’s comments also come after Iran and Saudi Arabia, with Chinese mediation, announced on Friday they would restore diplomatic ties and reopen embassies after seven years of freezing relations.