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After months of negotiations, the United States and Iran are set to complete a prisoner exchange, a breakthrough that Washington hopes will open the door to easing tensions between the old foes.

In a carefully orchestrated process, the Islamic Republic will release five dual U.S.-Iranian nationals on Monday and fly them to Qatar, while the United States will release five Iranians from U.S. prisons.

The swap follows the transfer of $6 billion in Iran’s frozen oil revenue in South Korea to bank accounts in Qatar, where the funds will be monitored to ensure Iran uses the money to buy products not subject to sanctions. commodity.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani said he hoped the transfer of assets to “friendly countries” and the exchange of prisoners would be completed on Monday.

A source familiar with the matter told the Financial Times that Qatari officials had confirmed to both parties that $6 billion had been transferred from South Korea to Qatari bank accounts via Switzerland. A Qatari plane was on standby in Tehran on Monday morning, waiting to fly U.S. citizens to Doha, the person said.

The prisoners were released after months of indirect talks between the United States and Iran, facilitated by Qatar and Oman. It is hoped that this will help build a level of trust that will pave the way for further discussion of Iran’s robust nuclear programme.

While Tehran continues to enrich uranium, the United States and Iran have been discussing ways to ease tensions and contain the nuclear problem. This includes Iran agreeing not to target Americans and limiting its uranium enrichment to 60% purity, below weapons grade.

In return, Iran hopes Washington will not impose additional sanctions that would further choke the economy.

An Iranian official previously told the Financial Times that the United States has also been urging Tehran to stop selling to Moscow drones and parts used by the Russian military in the war in Ukraine. People familiar with the talks said Tehran has denied exporting weapons to Russia for use in the war and no agreement has been reached.

Still, some believe a prisoner swap could at least help contain a nuclear crisis and mitigate the risk of a renewed conflict in the Middle East.

“Releasing the Iranian hostages is key to the Biden administration’s ability to manage and contain a series of crises related to Iran’s advancing and unchecked nuclear program ahead of a U.S. election year,” said Sanan Wakil, director of Middle East affairs at Chatham House. First step.” “Additionally, (U.S. President Joe) Biden can show that he is indeed following through on his promise to bring home unjustly detained U.S. citizens.”

The crisis has been brewing dangerously since US President Donald Trump unilaterally abandoned Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers and imposed hundreds of sanctions on Iran, strangling the republic’s economy.

Diplomatic efforts to revive the 2015 deal have floundered since the Biden administration took office, and few believe the deal can be saved given the scale of Iran’s nuclear progress.

U.S. officials say Iran has the ability to produce enough fissile material to develop a nuclear weapon in about two weeks.

Analysts say the Biden administration’s best hope is to contain the crisis and seek to return to serious nuclear negotiations if the U.S. president is re-elected. “The larger issues of the Biden administration’s Iran policy beyond campaign promises and crisis management remain unclear,” Vakil said.

For Iran, a $6 billion unfreeze would provide the country with some vital hard currency as it grapples with a sluggish economy and inflation that has soared above 40%.

The United States also wants Iran to strengthen cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency, which oversees Iran’s nuclear activities.

But Tehran has sent mixed signals, with signs it has slowed the pace of enriching uranium closer to weapons grade while continuing to thwart the International Atomic Energy Agency in other areas.

The nuclear watchdog last week condemned Iran for banning IAEA inspectors from its monitoring program.

The Iranian-American dual nationals released from Iran include Emad Shargi, Morad Tahbaz, Siamak Namazi and two others. People who wish to be named.

Namazi is an Iranian-American businessman who was arrested about eight years ago and sentenced to 10 years in prison for allegedly colluding with the United States against the Islamic Republic. Tabaz is a businessman and environmental activist with Iranian, American and British citizenship. Shargi is an Iranian-American businessman. Both men were arrested in 2018 and sentenced to 10 years in prison on similar charges of collusion with the United States.

The identities of the Iranians to be released from U.S. prisons have not yet been released. Kanani said that two Iranians imprisoned by the United States will return to the Islamic Republic of Iran, another Iranian will go to a third country, and two others will remain in the United States.

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