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Iran says UK must repay $550m debt and lift sanctions: Report

In meeting between the countries' foreign ministers, the UK acknowledged the payment but said sanctions make it impossible to pay, according to The Guardian
UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss spoke at the UN with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, pressing him to urge Tehran to return to nuclear talks.
UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss spoke at the UN with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, pressing him to urge Tehran to return to nuclear talks (AFP/File photo)

Iran has called on the UK to repay its four-decade-old $550m (£400m) debt, in the first meeting between the two countries' foreign ministers since 2018, the Guardian reported.

UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss met with Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian on Wednesday at the United Nations General Assembly. There, Iran claimed that Truss acknowledged that Britain owed the payment, but that sanctions made it impossible to pay, according to the Guardian.

Iranian state TV has previously suggested that the payment, stemming from an arms deal with Iran's shah that was cancelled after the 1979 Islamic Revolution, could be tied to a deal that would release detained British-Iranian aid worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, although the UK and US have denied this.

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The UK's statement on the meeting did not mention the debt and instead said that Truss called on Iran to return to stalled nuclear negotiations and release British dual nationals currently detained in the country.

The meeting came during the same week that Zaghari-Ratcliffe marked her 2,000th day in Iranian detention. She was imprisoned by Tehran in 2016 over charges of plotting against the Iranian government.

In the UK, activists marked the day by demanding that Britain impose sanctions on 10 Iranian officials accused of involvement in hostage-taking, the first call for sanctions on individual officials over the Zaghari-Ratcliffe detention.

Ratcliffe's legal advisers have given the UK's Foreign Office the names of 10 Iranian officials they say Britain should sanction for the detention, investigation or jailing of dual nationals.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe's husband, Richard Ratcliffe, has insisted that the case against his wife is a sham and is being used as a bargaining chip by Tehran to secure the debt payment from the UK.

"It's 2,000 days of ups and downs and twists and turns and false dawns, and snakes and ladders seemed to encapsulate that because we’re in the middle of a game between two governments. We're just a bargaining chip in it,” Richard Ratcliffe told the British newspaper.

Last month, footage leaked by Iranian hackers unveiled abuses at Evin prison in Tehran where several UK nationals are held. Zaghari-Ratcliffe had also been held there until she was released on furlough earlier this year.

Nuclear negotiations

Iran has been called on by a number of European countries to return to the nuclear talks in Vienna as soon as possible.

The negotiations, which began in April, are aimed at re-entering the deal that former US President Donald Trump walked away from, prompting Tehran to reduce its commitments to the agreement.

However, the last round of negotiations in Vienna ended without a set date for the next round.

US President Joe Biden said during his speech at the UN General Assembly that Washington is "prepared to return to full compliance if Iran does the same".

Iran's president, Ebrahim Raisi, also called for a resumption of the talks and the removal of US sanctions, however, added that the Islamic Republic "does not trust the promises made by the US government".

The UK's Truss also spoke at the UN with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, pressing him to urge Tehran to return to the talks.