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Iran says U.S. prisoner swap moving ahead

Tehran authorities claim a deal with its nemesis the United States to unfreeze US$6 billion (RM28 billion) worth of Iranian funds and swap five prisoners for each of them will take place today after months of negotiations brokered by Qatar, according to Reuters.

A Qatari plane has waited in Iran today for five American prisoners to be exchanged for five Iranians held in the United States as part of the deal. Also, thanks to a Doha-brokered deal that also unfroze $6 billion (28 billion riyals) worth of Iranian funds.

Earlier, it was reported that the funds had been transferred to accounts in Qatar. This triggered the start of the exchange, agreed after months of negotiations between the arch-enemies, who are feuding over Tehran’s nuclear ambitions and a host of other issues. An anonymous source reports:

“A Qatari aircraft is on standby in Iran waiting to fly five soon-to-be released US citizens and two relatives to Doha on Monday morning.”

Five Americans with dual citizenship will fly from Doha to the US. In exchange for them, five Iranians detained in the U.S. will be released. An Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman notes that two Iranians will return to Iran and two will remain in the U.S. at their request. One detainee traveled to his family in a third country.

The deal will remove a major irritant in relations between the United States, which calls Tehran a state sponsor of terrorism, and Iran, which calls Washington the “Great Satan.”

However, there will still be a number of differences between them on other global issues from the U.S. military presence in the Persian Gulf to Iran’s nuclear programme and its influence in the region to U.S. sanctions.

Qatar is seeking to raise its profile in the world. It is a very rich producer of energy resources in the Persian Gulf, hosted the soccer World Cup last year and gives itself an important role in international diplomacy. The Sunni Muslim country hosts a major US military base, but it has also developed close ties with Shiite Iran.

More than 8 rounds of talks between Iran and the US were held in Doha. The negotiators lived in different hotels and communicated through shuttle diplomacy, a source told Reuters.

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