First Published: 2017-11-16

UK denies link between citizen detained in Iran and 400m debt
Longstanding debt dates back to arms contract for which Britain received an advance payment but was halted by the 1979 Iranian Revolution.
Middle East Online

Johnson has vowed to make every effort to secure release of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe from Iran.

LONDON - Britain on Thursday denied any link between a longstanding debt of 400 million ($530 million, 450 million euros) to Iran and the fate of a British woman jailed in Tehran, after a report cited diplomats saying the money could help secure her release.

The debt dates back to an arms contract for which Britain had received an advance payment from Iran but which was halted by the 1979 Iranian Revolution.

The money is being held in a frozen bank account in Britain, but sending the funds to Iran is complicated because of European Union and US sanctions on the country.

Separately, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has vowed to make every effort to secure the release of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who was imprisoned 19 months ago on charges of sedition.

"We don't see any link between these two issues," a spokesman for Prime Minister Theresa May told reporters.

Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Ghassemi also denied any link in comments to Iran's IRNA state news agency.

"The case of Mrs. Nazanin Zaghari and the repayment of this debt are two distinct issues and there is no connection between them," he said.

But The Daily Telegraph cited diplomats saying that repayment of the debt could speed up her release from jail.

The newspaper also quoted two senior government sources voicing concern that Zaghari-Ratcliffe was being held as "collateral" to get the money released.

The money is part of a payment of 650 million made by Iran in the 1970s to buy 1,500 Chieftain tanks from Britain and repair 250 more.

After the Shah was deposed in 1979, the deal was blocked and Britain kept the money.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British-Iranian dual national who works for the Thomson Reuters Foundation -- the media organisation's philanthropic arm -- was arrested at the Tehran airport in April 2016.

She is now serving a five-year jail sentence for alleged sedition, and has been threatened with further charges and a new trial that could double her sentence.


Rebels evacuate Syria's Eastern Ghouta

Sarkozy says life ‘living hell’ since corruption allegations

Turkey’s largest media group to be sold to Erdogan ally

Hezbollah leader says debt threatens Lebanon disaster

Exiled Syrian doctors treat refugees in Turkey

In world first, flight to Israel crosses Saudi airspace

Saudi, US must pursue 'urgent efforts' for Yemen peace: Mattis

US, Jordan launch new counterterrorism training centre

Two Hamas security force members killed in raid on bomb suspect

Turkey gives watchdog power to block internet broadcasts

EU leaders to condemn Turkey’s ‘illegal’ actions in Mediterranean

Ahed Tamimi reaches plea deal for eight months in jail

UN launching final push to salvage Libya political agreement

Conditions for displaced from Syria's Ghouta 'tragic': UN

Sisi urges Egyptians to vote, denies excluding rivals

Rights Watch says Libya not ready for elections

Saudis revamp school curriculum to combat Muslim Brotherhood

American mother trapped in Syria’s Ghouta calls out Trump

Syria workers say French firm abandoned them to jihadists

Grim Nowruz for Kurds fleeing Afrin

Sarkozy back in custody for second day of questioning

'Saudization' taking its toll on salesmen

Syrian rebels reach evacuation deal in Eastern Ghouta town

Israel confirms it hit suspected Syrian nuclear reactor in 2007

UN says Turkey security measures 'curtail human rights'

Netanyahu says African migrants threaten Jewish majority

US Senate votes on involvement in Yemen war as Saudi prince visits

What a ‘limited strike’ against Syria’s Assad might mean

Erdogan tells US to stop ‘deceiving’, start helping on Syria

IS controls Damascus district in surprise attack

French ex-president held over Libya financing allegations

NGO says Israeli army violating Palestinian minors’ rights

Human rights chief slams Security Council for inaction on Syria

US warns Turkey over civilians caught in Syria assault

Saudi crown prince keen to cement ties with US

Abbas calls US ambassador to Israel 'son of a dog'

Erdogan vows to expand Syria op to other Kurdish-held areas

Kurdish envoy accuses foreign powers of ignoring Turkish war crimes

Morocco authorities vow to close Jerada's abandoned mines

Israeli soldier sees manslaughter sentence slashed

Turkey insists no plans to remain in Afrin

Cairo voters show unwavering support for native son Sisi

Forum in Jordan explores new teaching techniques

Gaza Strip woes receive renewed attention but no fix is expected

Kurds, Syrian opposition condemn Afrin looting