US officials dismissed Iranian claims that the two countries were nearing a prisoner exchange agreement, saying comments by Iran’s top diplomat were a “cruel lie”.
Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said on Iranian state television on Sunday that Iran agreed with the US on a prisoner exchange, saying: “If all goes well on the US side, I think we will soon be able to start the exchange of prisoners will see.” .”
Amir-Abdollahian claimed the agreement had been in effect since last March, but US officials told The Associated Press that no such agreement existed between the two nations.
“We are working relentlessly to secure the release of the three Americans wrongfully detained in Iran,” State Department spokesman Ned Price told The Associated Press. “We will not stop until they are reunited with their loved ones.”
Price said Amir-Abdollahian’s comments were “another particularly cruel lie that only increases the suffering of their families”.
The National Security Council also said the Iranian claims were false in a statement to the Associated Press.
“Unfortunately, Iranian officials will not hesitate to make things up, and the latest vicious allegation will cause more heartbreak for the families of Siamak Namazi, Emad Shargi and Morad Tahbaz,” the council said.
Siamak Namazi, Emad Shargi and Morad Tahbaz are three Americans known to be detained in Iran on charges of espionage, a practice known to be used by the Iranian regime to influence negotiations with the west. All three have dual American-Iranian citizenship.
Iran’s claim comes as the country reached an unexpected Chinese-negotiated deal with Saudi Arabia that sees the two countries rekindle diplomatic ties. China’s involvement in the deal between the two adversaries has raised alarms about US influence in the region.
The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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