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Downing Street insists UK not prepared to settle £450m Iran debt to free Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe

Downing Street insists UK not prepared to settle £450m Iran debt to free Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe
2 min read

Downing Street has rejected suggestions that Britain is ready to settle a £450m debt to Iran to help free Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe from prison.

The British-Iranian mother has been held by the regime since April 2016 after she was accused of spying.

The Sun reported that the debts – racked up by an international court order forced on the UK after it reneged on a deal to sell tanks to Iran in 1979 – form part of a list of demands laid out by Tehran before they consider freeing her.

The paper said Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and Chancellor Philip Hammond have been drawing up plans to finalise the deal, which could improve bilateral relations and lead to Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe's release.

Pressure to free the mother-of-one has increased after Mr Johnson wrongly said she had been in Iran “teaching journalists” – a claim which could see Iranian prosecutors double her jail sentence.

The Prime Minister's official spokesman played down suggestions that the UK would pay up to quicken her release.

He said: "I think we're clear that we don't see any link between these two issues. It's not something I recognise. The reports are speculation and not anything I recognise."

Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe's husband Richard met Mr Johnson yesterday and told the Foreign Secretary: “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.”

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