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Iran says it is ready for an unconditional prisoner swap with US

Tehran suggests exchange a day after Blinken raised awareness of captive Siamak Namazi and other American nationals held by Islamic Republic

This undated photo shows Baquer Namazi, left, and his son Siamak, who are both currently detained in Iran, in an unidentified location. (Babak Namazi via AP)
This undated photo shows Baquer Namazi, left, and his son Siamak, who are both currently detained in Iran, in an unidentified location. (Babak Namazi via AP)

Iran is ready to conduct an unconditional prisoner swap with the US, its Foreign Ministry spokesman was quoted as saying on Wednesday.

“We are ready to swap prisoners with Washington,” ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani said, according to a report in Reuters citing the semi-official Fars News Agency. “The US must release jailed Iranian citizens without any conditions.”

Tehran is seeking freedom for more than a dozen Iranians held in the US, among them seven dual US-Iranian nationals, two Iranians with permanent US residency, and four Iranian citizens who have no status, according to Reuters.

Iran is holding several US citizens or dual nationals on various charges that Washington considers trumped up.

The offer for a swap came the day after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken tweeted that 50-year-old Iranian-American Siamak Namazi has been held by Iran for 2,500 days.

“We are determined to secure his freedom and ensure all Americans who have been wrongfully detained by Iran, including his father Baquer, can return home,” Blinken wrote.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken makes remarks after addressing the 2022 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) review conference at United Nations Headquarters, Aug. 1, 2022. (Yuki Iwamura/AP)

Namazi, a businessman, was arrested in October 2015 and handed a 10-year sentence on charges of seeking to overthrow the clerical state, with evidence cited including his fellowships at Washington think tanks.

His father, former UNICEF official Baquer Namazi, was taken into custody in February 2016 as he tried to see him. In June Namazi implored to US President Joe Biden to help.

Iran’s raising of the prisoner issue comes amid efforts continue to revive a 2015 agreement with world powers that gave Iran sanctions relief in return for curbs on its nuclear program to prevent it from obtaining nuclear weapons.

The European Union said Tuesday it was studying Iran’s response to a “final” draft agreement on reviving the so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action that it had presented at talks in Vienna.

The United States had already said Monday that it was informing EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell of its response to the text he submitted on August 8.

The JCPOA has steadily collapsed since the 2018 withdrawal of the United States under then-president Donald Trump whose administration reimposed crippling sanctions. Iran responded by ramping up its nuclear program beyond limits laid down in the agreement and preventing UN monitoring of its activities.

The EU-coordinated negotiations to revive the so-called JCPOA began in April 2021 before coming to a standstill in March.

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