The Latest: Work proceeds to get freed Americans out of Iran
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The Latest: Work proceeds to get freed Americans out of Iran
Jan. 17, 2016
VIENNA (AP) — The latest developments as Iran and world powers implement a landmark deal reached last year to curb Iran's nuclear activities in exchange for the lifting of international sanctions (all times local).
The four Americans released in Iran under a negotiated prisoner exchange are still in that country as arrangements progress to get them out. So says a senior Obama administration official. A fifth American, released separately, is already on his way home.
The administration official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation. The official says work is proceeding on getting the four Americans together and putting them on a plane out of Tehran.
Earlier, Secretary of State John Kerry said the Americans had been released from Iranian custody. Now it's a matter of handling their logistics before they leave.
As part of the breakthrough exchange, the U.S. will free seven Iranians from American custody.
As well, Matthew Trevithick was released independently after 40 days of detention at a prison in Tehran, according to his parents. He's an American student who traveled to Iran in September for a four-month language program.
The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations says that with the arrival of "Implementation Day" provisions of seven sanctions resolutions on Iran terminate and that binding provisions in a resolution adopted last July come into force.
Samantha Power said in a statement Saturday that all 193 U.N. member states will be required to comply with measures that will remain in place "for many years to come." They include restrictions on certain nuclear-related transfers and on conventional arms and ballistic missile-related activities.
She says those measures also include cargo inspections and travel bans and asset freezes against Iranian individuals, companies and organizations.
Power says the United States will continue working with its international partners to ensure that the July resolution is fully enforced.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu isn't joining the chorus of congratulations over the implementation of the Iran nuclear deal. Far from it.
Netanyahu's office says in a statement that Iran has not given up its nuclear ambitions and is a destabilizing force in the Middle East, as well as a supporter of terrorism. The statement urges world powers to monitor Iran closely and respond harshly to any violation of its obligations.
And the statement vows Israel "will do everything necessary to protect its security and defend itself."
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is expressing relief over the return of Americans being held prisoner in Iran. But she says Iran shouldn't be thanked for freeing them because they were being held unjustly.
Clinton also says that Iran shouldn't be thanked for following through on its obligations now that the nuclear agreement with the U.S. and other world powers is being fully implemented.
In a statement issued Saturday in New York, Clinton warns against taking eyes off the ball concerning Iran. She says that as president her approach would be to "distrust and verify" while vigorously enforcing the nuclear deal.
The United Nations secretary-general is welcoming implementation of the nuclear deal between Iran and six major powers as "a significant milestone."
Ban Ki-moon says the U.N. nuclear agency's certification Saturday that Iran has met all of its commitments under last summer's landmark nuclear deal "reflects the good faith effort by all parties to fulfil their agreed commitments." That's according to his spokesman in a statement.
The statement says the achievement shows that dialogue and patient diplomacy are the best way to address worries about weapons proliferation.
And Ban expresses the hope that the agreement will contribute to greater cooperation for peace, security and stability in the region and beyond.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says the threat of a nuclear weapon has been reduced as he announces the implementation of a landmark nuclear deal with Iran.
Speaking in Vienna, Kerry tells reporters that the United States is lifting nuclear-related sanctions on Iran, a step that he says will expand the horizon of opportunity for the Iranian people.
Kerry says the steps Iran has taken have fundamentally altered Iran's nuclear program.
He says the agreement, reached last July, is a reminder "once again of diplomacy's power to tackle significant challenges."
President Barack Obama has signed executive orders lifting economic sanctions on Iran.
Obama signed the orders Saturday afternoon after the International Atomic Energy Agency certified that Iran had met its obligations to the nuclear watchdog. Removing the sanctions is part of the international agreement reached last year among Iran, the U.S., and five other world powers when Iran agreed to curbs on its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.
Lifting sanctions will allow Iran to immediately recoup some $100 billion in assets frozen overseas. Iran will also see huge benefits from new oil, trade and financial opportunities.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says Iran has met its obligations to the U.N. atomic watchdog and has ordered that nuclear-related U.S. economic sanctions against Iran be lifted.
In a statement, Kerry said the sanctions termination provisions of Iran's landmark nuclear agreement are now in effect.
President Barack Obama delegated authority to Kerry to make the determination. Kerry's statement followed a determination by the International Atomic Energy Agency that Iran has complied with the deal to curb its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.
The head of the U.N. nuclear agency has confirmed that Iran has met its obligations under a landmark nuclear deal reached with six world powers.
Certification by the International Atomic Energy Agency will allow Iran to immediately recoup some $100 billion in assets frozen overseas. Iran will also see huge benefits from new oil, trade and financial opportunities after Western sanctions against it are lifted.
IAEA director general Yukiya Amano says Saturday this means "relations between Iran and the IAEA now enter a new phase. It is an important day for the international community. I congratulate all those who helped make it a reality."
Among the seven Iranians affected by the U.S.-Iranian prisoner swap is Bahram Mechanic, who has been jailed since his indictment last April on charges of illegally exporting microelectronic technology to Iran.
Defense lawyer Joel Androphy said his client was "elated" to be pardoned Saturday but says Mechanic's "been incarcerated for 9 months for a crime that he's just accused of but did not commit."
Two other defendants in the case, Khosrow Afghahi and Tooraj Faridi, are also among those being offered clemency.
Androphy said the products his client was accused of providing to Iran were essentially surge protectors but the Justice Department "blew it up into some sort of national security terrorism threat." He says Mechanic is "basically a victim of the trade issues between the United States and Iran."
The wife of an Idaho pastor who is among four detained Americans being released from Iran says the news is "a huge burden lifted off."
Naghmeh Abedini told The Associated Press on Saturday that after she learned that Iran was going to release Pastor Saeed Abedini, she woke her kids up and told them "Daddy was coming home."
She said in a telephone interview from Boise that "they were just excited. They couldn't believe it."
The Boise man was detained for compromising national security, presumably because of Christian proselytizing, in September 2012. He was sentenced in 2013 to 8 years in prison.
Iran agreed Saturday to release four detained Americans in exchange for seven Iranians held or charged in the United States. A fifth American detained in Iran, a student, was also released in an unrelated move.
The publisher of The Washington Post says he "couldn't be happier" to hear that the paper's reporter, Jason Rezaian, had been released from Iran's Evin Prison on Saturday.
In a statement, publisher Frederick J. Ryan Jr. also says more information will be available once he has more details and can confirm Rezaian has safely left Iran.
Rezaian had been held more than 543 days on espionage and related charges. He is among four detained Americans released Saturday in exchange for seven Iranians held or charged in the U.S.
The release is part of a major diplomatic breakthrough as implementation of the historic nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers appears imminent.
U.S. Republican presidential candidates Ted Cruz and Rand Paul are welcoming the release of Pastor Saeed Abedini in the U.S.-Iran prisoner swap and Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders says the exchange shows "diplomacy can work even in this volatile region of the world."
Republican presidential hopeful Marco Rubio and other Republicans say Americans should never have been captured in the first place and Rubio blamed the Obama administration's willingness to do prisoner swaps in the past.
In Iowa, Rubio argued that governments were taking Americans hostage because they believe they can gain concessions from the Obama administration. He mentioned the June 2014 swap in which the United States exchanged Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who had been held by the Taliban for five years, for five top Taliban commanders at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Iran's transport minister says his country has reached a deal with the European consortium Airbus to buy 114 passenger planes once international economic sanctions are lifted as part of a nuclear deal.
Minister Abbas Akhondi is quoted by the official IRNA news agency as saying Saturday that the first shipment of planes will arrive in Iran before March 20 to upgrade Iran's aging fleet. Iran has said it is looking to buy 400 passenger planes over the next decade.
Iran is already waiting for the imminent release of a U.N. compliance report that would trigger the lifting of sanctions under a landmark deal reached with world powers last July over Iran's nuclear program.
U.S. officials say a fifth American detained in Iran, a student, has been released in a move unrelated to a prisoner swap earlier between the two countries.
They say the student, identified as Matthew Trevithick, was released independently of the exchange on Saturday and already was on his way home. They spoke about the prisoner exchange on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss it publicly.
Iran has agreed to release four detained Iranian-Americans in exchange for seven Iranians held or charged in the United States.
U.S. and Iranian officials say Iran is releasing four detained Iranian-Americans in exchange for seven Iranians held or charged in the United States.
The major diplomatic breakthrough was announced Saturday as the implementation of a landmark nuclear deal appeared imminent.
U.S. officials say the four Americans, including Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian, former Marine Amir Hekmati and pastor Saeed Abidini, were to be flown from Iran to Switzerland on a Swiss plane and then brought to a U.S. military base in Landstuhl, Germany, for medical treatment.
In return, the U.S. will either pardon or drop charges against seven Iranians — six of whom are dual citizens — accused or convicted of violating U.S. sanctions. The U.S. will also drop Interpol "red notices" — essentially arrest warrants — on a handful of Iranian fugitives it has sought.
There are conflicting reports about the identities of the four prisoners released by Iran.
Iranian state TV on Saturday announced that four prisoners holding dual Iranian-American citizenship were released, without elaborating. The announcement fueled speculation that Jason Rezaian, the jailed Washington Post bureau chief, was among them.
An official close to Iran's judiciary told The Associated Press that the prisoners included Rezaian, former U.S. Marine Amir Hekmati and pastor Saeed Abedini. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
It was unclear who the fourth person was. Iranian state TV later reported it was Siamak Namazi, the son of a politician from the era of the shah, while the official IRNA news agency said it was Nosratollah Khosravi-Roodsari. The accounts could not be reconciled immediately.
— Ali Akbar Dareini in Tehran, Iran
A source close to Iran's judiciary is telling The Associated Press that four Iranian-Americans have been freed from prison in Iran: Washington Post bureau chief Jason Rezaian as well as Amir Hekmati, Saeed Abedini and Siamak Namazi.
The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media, said the four were freed Saturday in exchange for the release of seven Iranians held in U.S. prisons. He didn't name the Iranians but said the seven have already arrived in Tehran.
He says "authorities at the top had agreed to free the four Iranian-Americans only after the Iranian prisoners land in Tehran."
— Ali Akbar Dareini in Tehran
A source close to Iran's judiciary is confirming to The Associated Press that jailed Washington Post bureau chief Jason Rezaian is one of four dual-national prisoners freed today by Iran's government.
Iranian state television announced the release of the four prisoners on Saturday but gave no names.
The source spoke on condition of anonymity since he was not authorized to publicly speak to the media.
— Ali Akbar Dareini in Tehran
Iranian state television says the government has freed four dual-nationality prisoners.
The report Saturday did not identify the prisoners but it comes amid speculation that jailed Washington Post bureau chief Jason Rezaian, a dual Iran-U.S. citizen convicted of espionage in a closed-door trial in 2015, could be among them.
The report by the semi-official ISNA news agency quotes a statement from the Tehran prosecutor's office as saying the inmates were freed "within the framework of exchanging prisoners," without elaborating.
The U.S. would not immediately confirm the Iranian report. But the family of one of the U.S prisoners received unofficial word from Iran that their relative was being released today, according to a person close to that family.
The EU's top diplomat has met with Iran's foreign minister for talks on implementing the nuclear deal between Tehran and six world powers, as the U.N. atomic agency works on a report certifying that Iran has met its commitments under the accord.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will join Federica Mogherini of the European Union and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in Vienna, the headquarters of the U.N's International Atomic Energy Agency, later Saturday.
IAEA certification that Iran is honoring its obligations would trigger sanctions relief for Iran worth an estimated $100 billion.
Under the July 14 deal between Iran and six world powers, Tehran Iran agreed to crimp programs it could use to make nuclear weapons in return for an end to international nuclear-related sanctions
Iran says it has no interest in such arms.
Iranian hard-liners are accusing moderate President Hassan Rouhani of "burying" the country's nuclear program as Tehran and world powers are on the verge of implementing a historic nuclear accord.
Under the front-page headline "Nuclear Burial," Hard-line daily Vatan-e-Emrooz on Saturday criticized the removal of the core of Iran's only heavy water reactor, which was filled in with cement earlier this week as one of the final steps under the agreement.
The Javan daily says filling in the reactor is "hurting national pride."
It says the Iranian people hope that the "bitterness of filling the Arak reactor with cement will be accompanied with the sweetness of filling their table," referring to the lifting of crippling international sanctions.
Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif earlier said that the imminent release of a U.N. compliance report would trigger "Implementation Day," with Iran receiving billions in sanctions relief in return for limiting its nuclear activities.
Iran's foreign minister says an imminent compliance report by the U.N. nuclear agency will trigger the implementation of the historic nuclear accord reached with world powers last year, bringing a "good day" for Iran.
Mohammad Javad Zarif says the report will mark "Implementation Day," when world powers provide Iran with billions of dollars in sanctions relief in exchange for it curbing its nuclear program.
Speaking in Vienna on Saturday, where he was to meet with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and top EU diplomat Federica Mogherini, Zarif called for greater cooperation to fight the "terrorism and extremism" that has engulfed the Middle East. His comments were broadcast on state TV.