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Iran foreign minister proposes Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe prison swap

Zarif says proposal initially made six months ago but was met with silence from Washington
FM Zarif said Iran is ready to have 'a serious dialogue' with Washington on possible prisoner exchange (AFP/File)  

Iran may be open to negotiate a prisoner swap with Washington, the country's foreign minister said at an event at the Asia Society in New York.

Mohammad Javad Zarif said he was willing to engage in "a serious dialogue" with the United States on a possible prisoner exchange.  

Initially, Zarif named a British-Iranian aid worker as a prisoner the Iranian government was willing to swap for an Iranian woman being detained in Australia for the past three years on a US extradition request.

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"I feel sorry for them, and I have done my best to help," Zarif said. "But nobody talks about this lady in Australia who gave birth to a child in prison. ... I put this offering on the table publicly now - exchange them."

Speaking to Reuters after the conference, Zarif said the case of the British-Iranian woman, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, was a separate issue which he was discussing with the British government.

"The offer that I made was people who have been in prison either in the United States or elsewhere in the world on American request," he said. "But the Iranian-British woman is a separate case."

At the Asia Society, Zarif said Iran had proposed a possible prisoner swap deal with Washington six months ago but had not yet received a response.

"All these people that are in prison inside the United States, on extradition requests from the United States, we believe their charges are phoney. The United States believes the charges against these people in Iran are phoney. Let's not discuss that," he said.

"Let's have an exchange. I'm ready to do it and I have authority to do it," Zarif said.

Last month, Britain announced plans to give Zaghari-Ratcliffe diplomatic protection in an attempt to put pressure on Iran to release her.

Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt said resorting to a little-used way for governments to seek to protect their nationals was unlikely to be a "magic wand", but might help Zaghari-Ratcliffe's case.

But Iran's ambassador in London said the move "contravenes international law".