Washington — Ron Klain, President Biden's chief of staff, said the U.S. has not reached an agreement with Iran to secure the release of four American hostages held in the country, refuting a report from Iranian state media that said a deal had been struck.
"Unfortunately, that report is untrue. There is no agreement to release these four Americans," Klain said Sunday on "Face the Nation." "We're working very hard to get them released. We raise this with Iran and our interlocutors all the time. But so far, there's no agreement to bring these four Americans home."
The Associated Press reported Sunday morning that Iranian state television said the country had reached a deal to release Western prisoners in exchange for other prisoners and billions of dollars from the U.S. and the United Kingdom. The Iranian report cited an anonymous official who said the U.S. and U.K. would release four Iranians and $7 billion in frozen Iranian funds.
The State Department immediately refuted the report, shortly before Klain's comments. "Reports that a prisoner swap deal has been reached are not true," State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement. "As we have said, we always raise the cases of Americans detained or missing in Iran. We will not stop until we are able to reunite them with their families."
The four American hostages have emerged as a point of contention between the U.S. and Iran in the early months of the Biden administration. National security adviser Jake Sullivanin February that the U.S. had "begun to communicate with the Iranians on this issue," and said the administration "will not accept a long-term proposition where they continue to hold Americans in an unjust and unlawful manner."
Four Americans are known to be held in custody in Iran: Baquer and Siamak Namazi, Morad Tahbaz and Emad Shargi. Bahareh Shargi, Emad's wife,in April that he was did not have access to his attorney and that the Swiss diplomats representing the U.S. in Iran had not been allowed to meet with him.
"In fact, it's been four months that not a single soul has seen Emad. Even his lawyer has asked to see him numerous times and has not been allowed to see him," Bahareh said in an interview.
Secretary of State Antony Blinkenwith families of Americans detained overseas shortly after taking office, telling them that the hostages "are a top priority in our diplomatic engagements with both allies and adversaries."
Klain said Sunday that the U.S. is "working hard to bring these Americans home."
"When we get that done, we will obviously be delighted to announce that news," he said.
Christina Ruffini and Margaret Brennan contributed reporting.
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