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UK may pay decades’ old unpaid debt to Iran for release of jailed Britain

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and her husband, Richard Ratcliffe on 1 January 2011 [MrZeroPage /Wikipedia]
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and her husband, Richard Ratcliffe on 1 January 2011 [MrZeroPage /Wikipedia]

The UK may need to settle a 40-year-old debt to the Iranian Republic for the release of a British-Iranian citizen being held on espionage charges.

British Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, is said to be preparing a bid, which will include payments of $600 million to the Iranian regime, for the release of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe. The 39-year-old mother-of-one was imprisoned by the Iranian government while on a family holiday in April 2016 for allegedly “plotting to topple the regime”.

Johnson was heavily criticised for his comments last week in which he said that Zaghari-Ratcliffe was in Iran training journalists. His comments were seized upon by Tehran as proof of allegations against her. While Johnson insisted that his comment was a misstatement he has been under intense pressure to renew efforts to secure her release.

Ahead of his meeting with Zaghari-Ratciiffe’s husband, Johnson said he would “leave no stone unturned” in getting the jailed Britain released.

It’s now being reported that the Foreign Secretary is contemplating settling a decades’ old debt related to an arms deal with the Shah of Iran in the 1970s before he was ousted by the Mullahs during the Iranian revolution.

UK British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson [Financial Times/Flickr]

British media reported that an arms deal for 1,750 tanks worth $855 million was interrupted by the 1979 Revolution. The UK was ordered to repay the debt in 2009 by the International Chamber of Commerce but UN and EU sanctions levied against Iran prevented the repayment.

There have been speculations that Zaghari-Ratcliffe is being held as bargaining chip for the unpaid debt but British officials have denied any link between the two cases.

“This is a longstanding case and relates to contracts signed over 40 years ago with the pre-revolution Iranian regime,” a government spokesperson said.

“It is wrong to link a completely separate debt issue with any other aspect of our bilateral relationship with Iran,” the spokesperson added.

Johnson is reportedly making preparations to visit Iran soon to secure the release of Zaghari-Ratcliffe.

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