U.K. Denies Link Between Settling Iranian Debt and Jailed Mother

(Bloomberg) -- The U.K. Foreign Office denied that a plan to transfer 400 million pounds ($525 million) to Iran to settle a 38-year-old debt was linked to attempts to free a British mother who has been held in the country on charges of trying to undermine the government.

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has found his political future linked to his ability to secure the freedom of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British-Iranian who was arrested last year as she left the country at the end of what she said was a visit to her parents.

Earlier this month Johnson told a parliamentary committee that she might have been training journalists in the country, a slip for which he eventually apologized. The Iranians cited this as evidence that they were correct to hold her, and suggested they could double her current five-year sentence.

Now, according to the Telegraph, Britain is to hand 400 million pounds to Iran to settle an outstanding debt from the 1970s, when the country’s Shah placed an order for tanks. After he was deposed, the U.K. held onto the money, but it has been ordered by a court to pay it back. This has been delayed by complications over sanctions.

“This is a longstanding case and relates to contracts signed over 40 years ago with the pre-revolution Iranian regime,” the Foreign Office said in an emailed statement. “It is wrong to link a completely separate debt issue with any other aspect of our bilateral relationship with Iran.”

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