Historic breakthrough reported between Iran and US

Historic breakthrough reported between Iran and US

WASHINGTON: The United States confirmed Monday it had signed off on the transfer of $6 billion in frozen Iranian funds from South Korea, paving the way for five US citizens to leave Tehran.

The arch enemies announced last month, after protracted negotiations, a deal in which the US citizens were freed from prison and put under house arrest, with the expectation they will fly out of Iran once the funds are moved to an account in Qatar.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken notified Congress that he had gone ahead on a key part of the agreement, signing a waiver that will shield banks involved in the transfer from US sanctions.

The money transfer is “a critical step in securing the release of these five US citizens,” a State Department spokesperson said.

President Joe Biden’s administration has insisted that Iran will only be allowed to use the money to buy food, medicine and other humanitarian goods, a point contested by Iran’s clerical state, a nemesis of Washington since the 1979 Islamic Revolution overthrew the pro-Western shah.

“We have not lifted any of our sanctions on Iran, and Iran is not receiving any sanctions relief,” the State Department spokesperson said on customary condition of anonymity.

In Tehran, foreign ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani insisted that the money will allow the Islamic republic to “purchase all non-sanctioned goods” which are not limited to food and medicine.

“We hope that this transfer will be completed in the coming days and that Iran will have full access to its assets,” Kanani said.

Kanani voiced optimism that the prisoner exchange “will take place soon.”

The official IRNA news agency had reported that five Iranians will also be released from the United States.

The five Americans had been held for as long as nearly eight years. All are of Iranian descent, with Tehran not recognizing dual nationality.

Sources earlier said to expect the five Americans to leave in mid-September.

Iran had generated the $6 billion in question by selling its oil to South Korea, a close US ally, which froze the funds after the United States under former president Donald Trump reimposed sanctions as he withdrew from a nuclear accord.

“As we have said, no money is going to Iran directly and no taxpayer funds are being used. The funds held in South Korea are Iran’s funds,” the State Department spokesperson said. -APP/AFP