U.S. Denies Any Deal With Iran to Ease Sanctions, Swap Prisoners
U.S. officials said a deal to revive a nuclear accord with Iran and ease sanctions isn’t imminent, and separately denied an Iranian report on an impending prisoner swap.
“The short answer is there is no deal now,” National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday. U.S. diplomats “will keep working at that over the coming weeks to try to arrive at a mutual return” to the nuclear deal within guidance laid out by President Joe Biden, he said.
World powers, led by the European Union and including Russia and China, are seeking to broker a U.S.-Iranian deal to revive the accord abandoned by former President Donald Trump in 2018. Sullivan rejected comments Saturday by Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi that there’s an agreement to lift sanctions on most individuals and on Iran’s energy, auto, financial, insurance and port industries.
“There is still a fair distance to travel to close the remaining gaps, and those gaps are over what sanctions the United States and other countries will roll back,” Sullivan said. “They are over what nuclear restrictions Iran will accept on its program to ensure that they can never get a nuclear weapon.”
Separately, State Department spokesman Ned Price denied an Iranian television report that the U.S. had agreed to a prisoner swap and the release of $7 billion in frozen Iranian funds.
“Reports that a prisoner swap deal has been reached are not true,” Price told reporters during a trip to Europe with Secretary of State Antony Blinken. “As we have said, we always raise the cases of Americans detained or missing in Iran. We will not stop until we are able to reunite them with their families.”
There’s been no proposal or serious discussion about prisoners during recent meetings in Vienna, said an official familiar with the talks.
The U.S. isn’t negotiating directly with Iran at the talks, but is participating in discussions led by the other treaty parties -- France, Germany, the U.K., Russia and China. Some European officials have said the goal is to wrap up before a May 22 deadline in the international monitoring process for Iran’s uranium enrichment work.
Iranian television also quoted an official as saying that the U.K. had agreed to pay 400 million pounds ($553 million) to secure the release of a British-Iranian woman imprisoned in Iran.
U.K. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab suggested on Sunday that the woman, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, is being held hostage by Iran. Her lawyer, Hojjat Kermani, said in a phone interview that he wasn’t aware of any such deal. The U.K. Foreign Office declined to comment, citing pending legal discussions.
Iran has demanded that the U.S. remove all sanctions imposed by the Trump administration, not just those that come under the terms of the nuclear accord.
Araghchi said delegates are working on details of a document that will formalize the U.S. return to, and Iran’s full compliance with, the original agreement, which limited Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.
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