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Iran insists prisoner swap deal was agreed with US, says 'ready to proceed today'

Washington says claim is an 'outrageous' effort to deflect blame for an impasse in nuclear talks in Vienna
The Iranian flag waves in front of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) headquarters in Vienna (AFP)

Iran insisted on Sunday that a prisoner swap deal has been agreed with the United States, an Iranian foreign ministry spokesman said, a day after Washington denied such an agreement had been reached.

"'Outrageous' = the US denying simple fact that there IS an agreed deal on the matter of the detainees. Even on how to announce it," Saeed Khatibzadeh said in a tweet.

"Humanitarian swap was agreed with US & UK in Vienna - separate from JCPOA (the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) - on release of 10 prisoners on all sides. Iran is ready to proceed TODAY."

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The United States on Saturday accused Tehran of an "outrageous" effort to deflect blame for the impasse in the nuclear talks in the Austrian capital and denied that any deal had been reached on a prisoner swap, Reuters reported.

Earlier on Saturday, Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Abbas Araqchi, tweeted that the US and Britain must stop linking a humanitarian exchange with the nuclear talks.

The talks at the headquarters of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna are aimed at reviving a 2015 deal between Iran and six major powers that curbed Tehran's nuclear programme in exchange for a lifting of sanctions on Iran. 

Washington abandoned the deal in 2018 and reimposed sanctions on Iran.

Ongoing communications

Araqchi said the seventh round of indirect talks between Tehran and Washington would not resume until Iran’s hardline president-elect, Ebrahim Raisi, takes office in early August.

The sixth round of the talks in Vienna adjourned on 20 June.

Tehran and US President Joe Biden's administration have been communicating on prisoner exchanges aimed at securing the release of Iranians held in US jails and other countries over violations of US sanctions, and of Americans jailed in Iran.

Iran has arrested dozens of dual nationals, including several Americans, in recent years, mostly on espionage charges.

Rights activists accuse the country of trying to use the detentions to win concessions from other countries, charges Tehran dismisses.