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US calls claim of prisoner swap deal a ‘cruel lie’

US State Department Building.Photo/CNN

Officials of the Biden administration on Sunday were quick to deny claims by Iran that a prisoner swap deal had been reached.

State Department spokesperson Ned Price told CNN that statements from Iranian officials that a deal regarding the exchange of prisoners has been reached are another especially cruel lie that only adds to the suffering of their families” .

There are three American citizens currently imprisoned in Iran: Siamak Namazi, Emad Shargi, and Morad Tahbaz to which the US designates as been wrongfully detained.

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian had claimed earlier that a prisoner exchange agreement had been reached between his country and the US.

“Regarding the exchange of prisoners between Iran and the United States, we have reached an agreement in recent days and if everything goes well on the American side, then I think we will see the exchange of prisoners soon,” Amir-Abdollahian told state media in an on-camera interview on Sunday.

But the US State Department said their was no time such an agreement had been struck.

Price added that “We are working relentlessly to secure the release of the three wrongfully detained Americans in Iran. We will not stop until they are reunited with their loved ones”.

Meanwhile, a White House National Security Council spokesperson also said that “claims by Iranian officials that we have reached a deal for the release of the US citizens wrongfully held by Iran are false.”

The NSC spokesperson continued “Unfortunately, Iranian officials will not hesitate to make things up, and the latest cruel claim will cause more heartache for the families of Siamak Namazi, Emad Shargi, and Morad Tahbaz”.

“We remain committed to securing the freedom of Siamak, Emad, and Morad, but we have nothing to announce at this time,” the spokesperson added.

The US and other Western countries have regularly accused Tehran of holding dual nationals as political pawns in negotiations with the West.

Last March, British-Iranian aid worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was released after six years of being detained in Iran.

Her release came as the UK settled a decades-old debt owed Iran which is up to £400 million but Tehran has continued to deny it was linked to the prisoner release.

Writing by Tersoo Nicholas