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Release of US prisoners showed true face of Iran’s humanitarian motives: Raeisi

Iranian President Ebrahim Raeisi talks to CNN on the sidelines of his visit to New York for the UN General Assembly in September 2023. (Photo by CNN)

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi has said that a decision to release five US prisoners from Iranian jails was a testament to Iran’s humanitarian motives.

“...I do think that the accomplishment was something that led to the happiness of the families of the prisoners, as well as having been able to show the true face of our humanitarian motives and efforts,” said Raeisi in an interview with CNN, excerpts of which were released on the American channel’s website on Wednesday.

The comments came two days after Iran allowed five US citizens who had been convicted by Iranian courts to return to the United States as part of a prisoner exchange deal with the US in which five Iranian prisoners were also released by Washington. 

Raeisi noted that those detained in Iran had "committed crimes," however, the Iranian citizens were "unfairly" jailed in the United States. 

The deal which was first publicized in early August concluded on Monday after Qatar, which mediated the deal, confirmed the transfer of some $6 billion worth of Iranian funds from South Korea, where they had remained blocked for several years because of US sanctions.

Raeisi told CNN that Iran will use the funds to procure the needs of the Iranian people despite suggestions by US officials that Tehran will face limits on spending the funds.

“We will certainly keep to the core of our belief that the objective is to spend those funds to respond to the needs of the Iranian people,” he said.

CNN's Fareed Zakaria interviewed the Iranian president in New York where he has been staying since earlier this week to attend the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA).

Raeisi delivered a speech to the UNGA late on Tuesday where he strongly criticized the United States for its continued but unsuccessful efforts to exert pressure on the Iranian nation through the use of sanctions.

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