Ready for prisoner exchange, Iran says the United States has 20 Iranians

TEHERAN: Iran said on Tuesday that US authorities are detaining some 20 Iranian citizens in jail, their official news agency reported a day later Tehran He said he was ready for more prisoner exchanges with the United States.

A prisoner exchange over the weekend saw Iran free a Chinese-American scholar from Princeton who had been held for three years on widely criticized espionage charges. It was seen as a rare diplomatic breakthrough between Tehran and Washington after months of tensions.

We told the US side that our figure is about 20 but this is not definitive, IRNA said, citing Mohsen Baharvand, an aid to Iran's Foreign Minister. The report did not provide more details about the claim.

According to Baharvand, US authorities say that Iran is holding one American national and five dual US-Iranian nationals. He said Iranian officials didn't have "any orders'' so far to begin talks on their release, though he suggested this could be the next "phase'' in indirect negotiations between Tehran and Washington.

US citizens detained in Iran include the US Navy veteran. UU. Michael White, who is serving a 10-year espionage sentence, as well as environmentalist Morad Tahbaz, an Iranian with US and British citizenship who was also initially sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Baharvand said Iran did not engage in direct talks with the United States for the exchange of prisoners of the weekend. Switzerland . The two sides only communicated through Swiss officials, who represent US interests in Iran. Washington and Tehran have had no diplomatic ties since the 1979 Islamic revolution.

Others with Western ties in Iran include two French researchers, Roland Marchal and the Iranian double Fariba Adelkhah. His lawyer, Saeed Dehgan, told The Associated Press on Tuesday that Iranian prosecutors have challenged a judge's decision that the two academics could be released on bail.

Iranian officials revealed in July the arrest of Adelkhah, a prominent anthropologist who often traveled to Iran for his research on post-revolutionary Iranian society. They said she was arrested on espionage charges.

Iran does not recognize dual citizenship for its nationals.

In October, France He revealed that Marchal had also been arrested.

Tensions have risen sharply over Iran's unraveling nuclear deal with world powers, which France still supports. US President Donald Trump He unilaterally withdrew from the agreement more than a year ago, before again imposing crippling sanctions on Iran's economy.