The National:

The prospect of a swift end to a 40-year dispute over an aborted arms deal between Iran and the UK was dismissed on Monday in a new blow to efforts to secure the release of charity worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe.

A High Court judge dismissed a £20 million (Dh90.2m) claim by Iran for interest on the historic debt on the same day that Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe appealed for her release on mental health grounds.

Iran has linked her continued detention to the failure by Britain to repay £380m after a deal for UK-built tanks was cancelled following the 1979 revolution.

The UK courts are in control of an account holding nearly £500m from the UK government-owned company behind the deal, but it cannot be handed over because of sanctions.

The two sides, who are continuing to wrangle over the final amount owed, are set for another showdown in the UK’s High Court in March next year, with no obvious solution in sight.

The failure to secure a breakthrough was a new blow for the family of Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who has been held on unspecified espionage charges since April 2016.

Her family says the Iran-British dual national, who was jailed for five years, is being used as a pawn in a broader battle between the two countries.

Her husband, Richard Ratcliffe, has called for the debt to be repaid to improved the chances of his wife’s freedom.

“The ruling today felt like an attempt to keep kicking this issue down the road,” Mr Ratcliffe said.

He believed that an assessment of whether Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe, 40, should be released on health grounds was deliberately scheduled for the same day as the arms deal hearing.

Tying the two issues meant that expectations of her release were low.

The Iranian-British dual national has suffered increasing mental health problems and was kept shackled when she was taken to hospital in July.

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