Plane carrying freed US nationals from Iran prison arrives in Qatar

An airplane carrying five US dual nationals freed from prison in Iran, landed in the Qatari capital Doha on Monday. Earlier, a US official confirmed that five prisoners sought by Washington had left the Iranian capital as part of the prisoner swap agreement.

The newly released detainees are expected to then board a flight back to the United States.

US President Biden has thanked Qatar, Oman, Switzerland and South Korea for their role in negotiating the prisoner exchange with Iran.

“I give special thanks to the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad, and to the Sultan of Oman, Haitham bin Tariq, both of whom helped facilitate this agreement over many months of difficult and principled American diplomacy,” Biden said in a statement.

“Today, five innocent Americans who were imprisoned in Iran are finally coming home,” he added.

The president in the statement reminded Americans not to travel to Iran, citing a State Department warning. He stressed that the US will continue to impose costs on Iran for “their provocative actions in the region”.

The White House released the statement as the five released US prisoners landed in Doha, Qatar.

Two of the five Iranians imprisoned by the US – who unlike the other three have chosen to return to Iran – have also arrived at the airport in Doha where they will later transit back home.

Nournews, affiliated with Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, said Mehrdad Moein Ansari and Reza Sarhangpour Kafrani are now in the Qatari capital.

“Simultaneously, the three other Iranian prisoners who lived in the US have been freed,” the news outlet added.

The United States and Iran, after months of Qatar-mediated talks, have struck a deal in which Tehran released five US dual nationals who were imprisoned in Iran in exchange for five Iranians held in the United States.

The White House has announced that the detainee swap does not change Washington’s adversarial relationship with Tehran, although the door remains open for diplomacy over Iran’s nuclear program.

Speaking to reporters late on Sunday, senior Biden administration officials said Washington would keep up the pressure on Tehran by imposing fresh sanctions on Iran’s ministry of intelligence and former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for “their involvement in the detention of US citizens”.

Even so, they stated the door for diplomacy over Iran’s nuclear program was not entirely shut.

“If we see an opportunity, we will explore it but right now, I’ve really nothing to talk about,” the senior administration official said on condition of anonymity.

Asked if there would be any indirect talks with the Iranians this week in New York on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, the official added: “You asked if there’s any talks planned this week, absolutely not.”

Under Monday’s deal, $6 billion in Iranian funds previously held in a restricted account in South Korea had been moved to a restricted account in Qatar, where they would be available for “very limited” humanitarian transactions, the official claimed.

He listed these categories as food, medicine, medical devices and agricultural products.

“If Iran tries to divert the funds, or use them for anything other than the limited humanitarian purposes authorized, we’ll take action to lock up the funds,” the official continued.

In an exclusive interview with NBC News in Tehran, President Ebrahim Raisi stressed Iran’s full authority on its recently-released assets. He stated it is Tehran that decides how to spend the funds and that the money will be spent “wherever we need it”.

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