Iran says it has given the U.S. a list of detained Iranians whom it wants to be freed in a prisoner swap, drawing a vague public response from U.S. officials who have sought to discuss the issue with Tehran.
Speaking to reporters Monday in Tehran, Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said Iran had provided the names of the detained Iranians to the U.S. and was ready to do a trade. He did not specify who was on the list or how it was handed to Washington, with whom Tehran has no formal ties.
But Mousavi said the Iranian government believes about 20 Iranians have been detained by the U.S. on what it considers to be "baseless" charges of circumventing U.S. economic sanctions against Iran. He singled out one of them, Iranian scientist Masoud Soleimani, as a cause for concern due to ill health.
U.S. authorities arrested Soleimani, a stem cell researcher, in October 2018 upon his arrival at a Chicago airport. He was charged with trying to export biological materials to Iran in violation of the sanctions.
Asked by VOA Persian to confirm whether it has received Iran's list for a proposed prisoner swap, a State Department spokesperson declined to comment specifically and only restated U.S. policy, saying: "The recovery of hostages held by the Islamic Republic of Iran is a top priority for the U.S. government."
Iran has been detaining at least four Americans for security-related offenses that their relatives and supporters have dismissed as trumped-up charges. The detainees include former U.S. soldier Michael R. White, Chinese-American Princeton University researcher Xiyue Wang, and Iranian-American businessman Siamak Namazi and his elderly father Mohammad Bagher Namazi.
A fifth American, retired FBI agent Robert Levinson, went missing in Iran 12 years ago and his family has said they believe he remains in detention there, a contention denied by Tehran.
Previously, Reuters quoted a U.S. State Department official last month as saying Iran had received a U.S. letter sent earlier this year seeking talks about the fate of several Americans jailed by Tehran. The unnamed official said U.S. efforts to reach out to Iranian officials on the issue were ongoing.
Go to link