US President Barack Obama denied that a US$400 million cash payment made to Iran earlier this year was ransom to secure the release of four Americans jailed in Tehran.
“This wasn’t some nefarious deal,” Obama said during a news conference at the Pentagon on Thursday.
He did not go into details, but defended the transaction as evidence that the nuclear accord with Iran has allowed for progress on other matters, Associated Press reported.
The president was responding to reports that Washington arranged a payment to Iran in January, at the same time the nuclear deal was settled and the Americans were released.
The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday that the Obama administration secretly arranged a cash airlift on Jan. 17 after negotiating a US$1.7 billion settlement with Iran relating to the sale of military equipment dating back to 1979.
The timing of the payment raised suspicions whether it was made in exchange for the release of the jailed Americans.
Justice Department officials were said to have been wary of the questionably-timed payment.
A White House spokesman joined Obama in insisting that the money was not a ransom payment.
“We have not, we will not, pay ransom to secure the release of US citizens,” spokesman Josh Earnest said.
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