British PM Says Iran Arms Deal Dispute Not Linked to Jailed Zaghari-Ratcliffe
REUTERS / Handout .UK17:01 GMT 03.05.2021Get short URL409Subscribe International

Reports that British-Iranian woman Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe would be released from prison in Iran in return for the British government repaying hundreds of millions owed for a never-honoured arms deal were dismissed by both governments on Sunday.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has insisted there is no link between a £400 million dispute with Iran and efforts to free a dual national woman jailed for spying.

Speaking on a by-election campaign visit to the north-eastern town of Hartlepool on Monday, Johnson said the continued imprisonment of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe on sedition charges in Iran and a 42-year-old legal battle over an arms deal were “two entirely separate issues”.

Lebanon’s Al-Mayadeen reported on Sunday that Zaghari-Ratcliffe would be released in return for the UK paying back some £400 million — paid by Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi in 1979 for an order of 1,500 Challenger tanks, months before the revolution that overthrew the monarchy. The UK refused to honour the deal with the new Islamic Republic or return the payment, despite British courts ruling that it should do so.

Both the British Foreign Office and its Iranian counterpart dismissed the claims of a deal, attributed to un-named sources in Tehran.

Minister of State for Middle East and North Africa James Cleverly confirmed that legal wrangling over the payment was ongoing but insisted it was entirely separate form the issue of “arbitrary detention”. 

Zaghari-Ratcliffe was jailed for five years in 2016 on charges of plotting to overthrow the government. She was due to be released last week, but was sentenced to an additional year in prison for spreading propaganda against Iran.

The minister said London differed with Tehran insistence that its claim to the money is legitimate.



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