Biden administration officials on Sunday sharply denied Iranian claims that a prisoner swap deal had been reached.
“Statements from Iranian officials that a deal regarding the exchange of prisoners has been reached are another especially cruel lie that only adds to the suffering of their families,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price told CNN.
There are three American citizens currently imprisoned in Iran: Siamak Namazi, Emad Shargi, and Morad Tahbaz. All of them have been designated as wrongfully detained by the US.
Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian had claimed earlier that a prisoner exchange agreement had been reached between his country and the US.
“Regarding the exchange of prisoners between Iran and the United States, we have reached an agreement in recent days and if everything goes well on the American side, then I think we will see the exchange of prisoners soon,” Amir-Abdollahian told state media in an on-camera interview Sunday.
“We consider this a completely humanitarian case,” he said.
But the US State Department said such an agreement had not been struck.
“We are working relentlessly to secure the release of the three wrongfully detained Americans in Iran. We will not stop until they are reunited with their loved ones,” Price said.
A White House National Security Council spokesperson also said that “claims by Iranian officials that we have reached a deal for the release of the U.S. citizens wrongfully held by Iran are false.”
“Unfortunately, Iranian officials will not hesitate to make things up, and the latest cruel claim will cause more heartache for the families of Siamak Namazi, Emad Shargi, and Morad Tahbaz,” the NSC spokesperson said.
“We remain committed to securing the freedom of Siamak, Emad, and Morad, but we have nothing to announce at this time,” the spokesperson added.
The US and other Western countries regularly accuse Tehran of holding dual nationals as political pawns in negotiations with the West.
Last March, British-Iranian aid worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was released after six years of detention in Iran. Her release came as the UK settled a decades-old £400 million debt owed to Iran — Tehran has denied it was linked to the prisoner release.
CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, Artemis Moshtaghian and Tamara Qiblawi contributed to this report.