Blinken Says Seoul Isn’t Sending Iran Sanctions-Linked Cash

Secretary of State Antony Blinken dismissed as untrue reports that the South Korean government is sending $1 billion to Iran to resolve a sanctions dispute.

“The report is incorrect,” Blinken said Wednesday in response to a question from Representative Greg Steube, a Florida Republican. “Unless and until Iran comes back into compliance, they won’t be getting that relief, and the report that you’re referring to is simply incorrect.”

A senior U.S. official later clarified that the U.S. might be willing to talk about making such a move as part of talks to bring Iran and the U.S. back into compliance with the multinational deal limiting Iran’s nuclear program in return for the easing of sanctions. But the official, who asked not to be identified discussing internal deliberations, said the U.S. wouldn’t make any unilateral gestures or offer any incentives to get Iran to the negotiating table.

Steube had asked Blinken about a report based on comments from an Iranian official that the government in Seoul had begun to release some of $7 billion trapped in the Asian country by U.S. sanctions, signaling progress toward ending a dispute over the seizure of an oil tanker. South Korea would release $1 billion as an initial step, the Iranian official, government spokesman Ali Rabiei, said at a news conference in February.

The Yonhap News Agency reported the unfreezing of the funds would involve consultations with “related countries,” including the U.S., citing the Foreign Ministry in Seoul. In addition, Rabiei said talks are also underway with Japan, Iraq and Oman to release Iranian funds stuck in those countries.

“I hope that you stand firm on not allowing anything as long as they are acting as the world’s number one state sponsor of terror,” Steube told Blinken during a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing.

The administration official said South Korea hasn’t released any such funds, and the U.S. hasn’t authorized any such release.

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