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Trump administration ignored Iran offer for prisoner swap: FM Zarif

In this file photo taken on April 24, 2018, Iranian Foreign Affairs Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif speaks during the 72nd High-level Meeting on Peacebuilding and Sustaining Peace at United Nations Headquarters in New York. (AFP photo)

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has criticized US government for refusing to engage with Tehran in a humanitarian deal for exchange of prisoners, saying President Donald Trump’s administration has once refused to endorse the gesture.

Zarif said in an interview with the CBS, which is planned to air on Sunday, that Washington had refused to discuss the status of prisoners in Iran and in the US when Iran put forward a proposal six month ago.

Zarif reiterated that Iran was still ready to engage in negotiations with the US on exchange of prisoners as long as the other side respected Iran’s conditions.

“We're willing to talk to anybody who's willing to respect Iran and deal with this issue,” he told CBS moderator Margaret Brennan.

The top Iranian diplomat also denied Washington claims that the Americans imprisoned in Iran were being held on trumped up charges.

Zarif said that he as foreign minister could not interfere in the Iranian courts handling the cases related to Americans held in the country unless there was an exchange of prisoners between the two countries.

“I am responsible for foreign policy. I'm not responsible for interfering in court's decisions. I can intervene when there is an exchange, an offer of exchange. I cannot intervene as foreign minister,” he said.

Zarif’s new remarks on prisoner swap with the US come several days after he announced that Tehran was ready to negotiate the issue with Washington.

The Iranian foreign minister said at the Asia Society in New York on Wednesday that he was putting an offer on the table to execute the exchange.

The comments came as a shock to many amid a renewed wave of pressure by US government on Tehran.

Zarif told the CBS that he has made the prisoner swap offer based on his humanitarian duties “to make it possible for people to go back home.”

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