US dismisses ‘cruel’ Iran prisoner swap claim

 By Stephen Neukam / The Hill

U.S. officials dismissed Iranian claims that the two countries were nearing an agreement on a prisoner swap, saying comments from Iran’s top diplomat were a “cruel lie.” Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian said Sunday on Iranian state television that Iran was in agreement with the U.S. on a prisoner swap, saying “If everything goes well on the American’s side, I think we will see the exchange of prisoners in the short term.”

Amirabdollahian claimed the agreement had been in place since last March, but U.S. officials told The Associated Press that there was no such deal between the two nations. “We are working relentlessly to secure the release of the three wrongfully detained Americans in Iran,”

State Department spokesperson Ned Price said to the Associated Press. “We will not stop until they are reunited with their loved ones.” Price said the comments from Amirabdollahian were “another especially cruel lie that only adds to the suffering of their families.”

The National Security Council also said that 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 cruel claim will cause more heartache for the families of Siamak Namazi, Emad Shargi and Morad Tahbaz,” the council said.

Siamak Namazi, Emad Shargi and Morad Tahbaz are three Americans that are known to be held in Iran on espionage charges, a practice that the Iranian regime is known to use to gain leverage in negotiations with the west. They all three have dual American-Iranian citizenship.

The claim from Iran comes as the country reached an unexpected, Chinese-negotiated agreement with Saudi Arabia, which will see the two countries reengage diplomatic ties with each other. The Chinese involvement in the deal between the two adversaries has raised alarms about the influence of the U.S. in the region. The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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