Iran says ready to swap prisoners with U.S. without preconditions

Iran says ready to swap prisoners with U.S. without preconditions

An Iranian news website, Khabaronline.ir, quoted Cabinet spokesman Ali Rabiei as saying there is a "readiness for all prisoners" to be discussed without condition.

It's unclear how many Americans are being detained by Iran.

"Washington has been notified of our readiness and we think no mediator is needed".

Both countries have called for the release of prisoners because of the coronavirus outbreak. Iran, meanwhile, has the deadliest recorded outbreak in the Middle East and has so far temporarily freed about 85,000 people from jail in emergency measures.

He also said that Tehran holds the United States responsible for the safety of Iranian prisoners, adding that "there is no need for a third country to mediate between Iran and America for the prisoner exchange".

Tehran and Washington have grown more hostile towards each other since 2018 when President Donald Trump exited Iran's 2015 nuclear deal with major powers and re-imposed sanctions on Tehran that has crippled its economy.

Three Iranian officials told Reuters last week that a prisoner swap between the two countries was in the works.

"We hope that as the outbreak of the COVID-19 disease threatens the lives of Iranian citizens in the USA prisons, the United States government eventually will prefer lives to politics".

Western media reported last week that Tehran and Washington were negotiating a deal that would release U.S. Navy veteran Michael White for an Iranian held in the United States.

Several dozen Iranians are being held in USA prisons, many of them for breaking sanctions.

One of them is Sirous Asgari, an Iranian scientist infected with the novel coronavirus while in detention, according to the Iranian foreign ministry.

Rabiei did not elaborate but Iranian media in recent months said there are several Iranians in U.S. custody, including Sirous Asgari, a 60-year-old university professor.

It is not clear exactly how many Americans Iran may hold, but they include father and son Baquer and Siamak Namazi and environmental expert Morad Tahbaz.

"The ball is in the US' court", Zarif wrote on Twitter at the time.

Hostility between the countries reached historic heights this year.

The punishing financial measures have crippled Iran's economy, triggering nationwide protests in November previous year, but Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has ruled out new talks with Washington until Trump lifts the sanctions.

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