Britain is to pay Iran more than £400m, the country’s ambassador to the UK has claimed.
Hamid Baeidinejad said the amount was an “outstanding debt” but was not linked to the case of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe – the dual British national who is in prison in Iran.
Writing on his Telegram account, Mr Baeedinejad said: “An outstanding debt owed by the UK to Tehran will be transferred to the Central Bank of Iran in the coming days. The payment … has nothing to do with Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s case.”
It was widely reported in recent days that the UK Government was considering paying the amount in return for the release of Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who was seized by Iranian authorities during a family holiday. Iran claims she was plotting to topple the government there.
Britain is said to owe Iran £450m for a cancelled arms deal in the 1970s. The deal was made with the then Shah of Iran and would have seen 1,750 tanks and other vehicles sold to Iran. However the Shah was toppled after the Islamic Revoluton of 1979 and almost one of the vehicles were delivered.
The UK says it is unable to pay the debt because of international sanctions on Iran. The amount was reportedly transferred to a bank account controlled by the High Court in 2002, but has not been given to Iran. Talks to resolve the issue have been going on for many years.
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Officially, the UK Government does not make ransom payments. The Foreign Office said the issue of the debt owed to Iran was unrelated to the case of Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe.
Speaking after meeting Boris Johnson, the Foreign Secretary, Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s husband, Richard Ratcliffe, said: “It is important that the UK honours its international legal obligations, so that Iran can honour its legal obligations.”
“They are separate things, but it is good for the atmosphere if they are all served.”