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Oman FM says US, Iran 'close' on prisoner deal

Oman's foreign minister told Al-Monitor that the two sides are ironing out the details on a deal to release the prisoners.
Omani Foreign Minister Sayyid Badr al-Busaidi.

MUSCAT, Oman — Iran and the United States are close to finalizing a deal on the release of Americans held in Tehran, Oman’s foreign minister told Al-Monitor. 

Omani Foreign Minister Sayyid Badr Albusaidi said in an interview Wednesday he senses “seriousness” on the part of both Washington and Tehran as their negotiators try to reach an agreement on the nuclear file. Eighteen months of on-and-off negotiations broke down in September after US officials said Iran put forward new demands that went beyond the scope of the original 2015 deal, under which Iran agreed to curb its nuclear activity in exchange for sanctions relief.

At stake are the fates of Americans Siamak Namazi, Emad Shargi and Morad Tahbaz, who are imprisoned in Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison on espionage charges the United States says are baseless. The Biden administration is unlikely to reach any agreement on the nuclear issue without first securing their release, analysts say. 

As part of a deal, Iran is seeking the release of billions of dollars in Iranian assets frozen in South Korean banks under US sanctions. A proposed mechanism would permit Iran to access those funds for humanitarian purposes only. Third parties including Oman, Qatar and the United Kingdom have at various times played a role in facilitating those discussions. 

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