Date
24 July 2017
Washington acknowledged for the first time that it used a cash payment to Iran in January as leverage to gain the release of some American prisoners. Photo: Reuters
Washington acknowledged for the first time that it used a cash payment to Iran in January as leverage to gain the release of some American prisoners. Photo: Reuters

Iran payment used as ‘leverage’ for prisoner release, says US

The United States acknowledged Thursday that its cash payment of US$400 million to Iran earlier this year was used as “leverage” to secure the release of American prisoners.

The State Department said it released the payment to Iran under a tribunal settlement only once it was assured that US prisoners had been freed and had boarded a plane, Reuters reported.

“The payment… was not done until after the prisoners were released,” spokesman John Kirby was quoted as saying.

“We took advantage of that to make sure we had the maximum leverage possible to get our people out and get them out safely.”

It was the first time the Obama administration has said publicly that it used the payment as leverage to ensure the prisoners were released by Iran.

Three of the five prisoners, including Jason Rezaian, the Washington Post’s Tehran bureau chief, were part of a prisoner exchange that followed the lifting of most international sanctions against Iran following a nuclear deal in 2015.

The White House announced on Jan. 17 that it was releasing US$400 million in funds frozen since 1981, plus US$1.3 billion in interest owed to Iran, as part of a settlement of a long-standing Iranian claim at the Iran-US Claims Tribunal in The Hague.

The funds were part of a trust fund Iran used before its 1979 Islamic Revolution to buy US military equipment that was tied up for decades in litigation at the tribunal.

President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry have denied that the payment was ransom for the release of the prisoners or tied to the Iran nuclear deal.

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RC

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