US says $400M payment was contingent on release of prisoners – WDTN

The seal of the State Department is seen before Secretary of State John Kerry speaks at the Washington Passport Agency, Tuesday, July 12, 2016 in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

The seal of the State Department is seen before Secretary of State John Kerry speaks at the Washington Passport Agency, Tuesday, July 12, 2016 in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The State Department says a $400 million cash payment to Iran was contingent on the release of American prisoners.

Spokesman John Kirby says negotiations over the United States’ returning Iranian money from a decades-old account was conducted separately from the prisoner talks. But he says the U.S. withheld delivery of the cash as leverage until the U.S. citizens had left Iran.

Both events occurred Jan. 17.

Kirby spoke after The Wall Street Journal reported that the departures of the crisscrossing planes were linked.

President Barack Obama vigorously denied on August 4, that a $400 million cash payment to Iran was ransom to secure the release of four Americans jailed in Tehran. He defended the transaction as evidence that the nuclear accord with Iran has allowed for progress on other matters.

“This wasn’t some nefarious deal,” Obama said during a news conference at the Pentagon.

A $400 million pallet of cash delivered to the Iranian government at the same time a complicated nuclear deal was settled and four Americans were released was unrelated and not a ransom, Secretary of State John Kerry said.

“The United States does not pay ransom and does not negotiate ransoms,” Kerry told reporters in Buenos Aires. “It is not our policy. This story is not a new story. This was announced by the president of the United States himself at the same time.”

Kerry said the payment was part of a deal under the then-U.S.-backed shah to buy $400 million worth of military equipment in 1970s.

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