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Iran says US takes detained dual nationals ‘hostage for political goals’

Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister for Political Affairs Abbas Araqchi

A senior Iranian diplomat says the United States prevents the release of dual nationals as it has taken the detainees “hostage” in order to obtain “political goals.”

Outgoing Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi made the remarks in a post on his Twitter account on Friday after British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab demanded that Iran’s new President Ebrahim Raeisi release Anoosheh Ashoori -- a British-Iranian dual national on the fourth anniversary of his arrest in Tehran.

Ashoori, who previously lived in south east London with his family, was detained in August 2017 and was sentenced to 10 years in prison for cooperating with Israel’s spy agency Mossad and two years for obtaining 33,000 euros in “illicit funds” nearly a year later.

In his tweet, Araqchi blamed Britain’s “friends” in Washington for freezing an agreement on a humanitarian prisoner exchange between Tehran and London.

“You know better than anybody else that deal for release of 10 prisoners-incl Anoosheh Ashoori-was concluded weeks ago but your friends in DC froze it,” he said.

“Ashoori and 9 more are taken hostage by US for political goals,” the top Iranian diplomat added.

In July, Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh rejected the United States’ denial of the agreement on the prisoner exchange, expressing Tehran’s preparedness to immediately proceed with the deal already agreed with Washington and London.

He denounced as "outrageous" the US denial of the fact that "there is an agreed deal on the matter of the detainees" and "even on how to announce it.”

In a pair of tweets, Araqchi also said the US and Britain are holding a prisoner swap “hostage to political aims” and urged them to “stop linking a humanitarian exchange — ready to be implemented — with the JCPOA,” using an acronym for the official name of the 2015 Iran deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

He also held out hope of a quick release of 10 prisoners on all sides if the US and the UK “fulfill their part of deal.”

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