Iran offers US more prisoners’ exchange


Middle East Desk

TEHRAN: Iran is ready for further prisoner exchanges with the United States, Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said on Sunday, according to the official IRNA news agency.
Michael White, a U.S. Navy veteran detained in Iran since 2018, was freed last Thursday as part of a deal in which the United States allowed Iranian-American physician Majid Taheri to visit Iran – a rare instance of U.S.-Iranian cooperation.
White’s release came two days after the United States deported Sirous Asgari, an Iranian professor imprisoned in the United States despite having being acquitted of stealing trade secrets.“If the possibility of exchanging prisoners exists, we have the readiness to free the rest of the individuals who are imprisoned in America and return them to the country,” Mousavi said.The door remains open for a wider negotiation with Iran about its nuclear program and other issues, but so far talks have been limited to prisoner releases, U.S. Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook said on Friday.
“(U.S. President Donald Trump) has had the door open to diplomacy for many years and in the same time frame, he has met (DPRK leader) Kim Jong Un three times. So, we would like to see the (Iranian) regime meet our diplomacy with diplomacy,” he told reporters a day after Iran freed U.S. citizen Michael White.
A glimmer of hope for Iran and the U.S. to amend ties has resurfaced after what appears to be a tacit prisoner exchange took place. On Wednesday, Sirous Asgari, an Iranian materials science professor returned home after being acquitted of stealing trade secrets in the United States. This was followed by the release of Michael White, an American who was sentenced to 13 years in Iranian prison for violating privacy and insulting Iran’s supreme leader. White departed Iran later this week after being released temporarily on medical grounds to the Swiss embassy in March.
On Tuesday, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif welcomed what he described as the “good news” of Asgari’s return on a flight to Iran, but accused the U.S. of holding “hostage” several other Iranian scientists.
While both countries denied the releases were part of a prisoner exchange, Trump has hinted about the possibility of a deal with Iran and expressed gratitude towards the country’s release of White.
“…Thank you to Iran. Don’t wait until after U.S. election to make the Big deal,” Trump said on Twitter.
In a tweet on Friday, Zarif responded to Trump’s message by challenging him to return to the nuclear deal that Washington abandoned two years ago. He made clear that it was Trump’s advisors who should be blamed for withdrawing from the deal.
“We achieved humanitarian swap despite your subordinates’ efforts,” Zarif said on Twitter, it is “up to you to decide when you want to fix (the dumb bet that your advisors have made).”
Also on Friday, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi confirmed that Zarif met Bill Richardson, a former U.S. envoy to the United Nations, “months ago” over prisoner releases.