Tehran to spend its $6 Bln unfrozen funds as it wills: Raisi
The Iranian President stated that the money from the unfrozen funds would be allocated based on their specific needs and requirements.
In an exclusive interview with NBC News' Lester Holt held in Tehran on Tuesday, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi has expressed that his government will make determinations regarding the utilization of the $6 billion in previously frozen funds set to be released as part of a prisoner exchange agreement with the US.
The Iranian President specifically stated that this money would be allocated based on their specific needs and requirements.
During the interview, Raisi hinted that the individuals from the US currently detained in Iran would be returning home in the near future, assuring that the US-Iran prisoner exchange agreement would be finalized "in due course," emphasizing the good health of the detainees.
As per the agreement, Tehran will gain access to approximately $6 billion in Iranian oil revenues that had been frozen in South Korean banks due to illegal US sanctions.
However, US officials stipulate that Qatar's central bank supervises these funds. Iran would be authorized to utilize the money exclusively for humanitarian purposes in alignment with US sanctions.
State Department: Transactions will be monitored
In reaction to Raisi's statements, a high-ranking official from the Biden administration stated that the released funds would initially be transferred to Qatar. Subsequently, the Treasury Department would maintain rigorous oversight over all transactions to guarantee that the funds are solely directed toward humanitarian endeavors.
The official elaborated, saying, "The funds will be securely held in a Qatar-based bank, and every individual transaction will be closely monitored by the US Treasury. The sole purpose is for humanitarian aid."
On another note, US State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller announced on Tuesday that the exchange of American and Iranian prisoners will not occur during the current week.
"I would say just for your planning purposes, you should not expect to see any movement in terms of the American citizens being released this week," Miller said during a press briefing.
Miller did not specify a schedule for the prisoner exchange but stressed the US' desire to repatriate detained American citizens in Iran promptly. He emphasized that the exchange deal remains provisional until all five detained Americans covered by the agreement have departed Iran.
He also said that the US possesses the capability to re-impose a freeze on $6 billion in recently released Iranian funds if it deems it necessary.
"The money can only be used for humanitarian purposes, and we will remain vigilant in watching the spending of those funds and have the ability to freeze them again if we need to," Miller said.
Raisi: Iran in control over fund allocation
Detractors of the agreement contend that by granting Iran access to the frozen funds, the Biden administration is potentially enabling Tehran to release additional resources that could be employed to procure weaponry or support proxies in the Middle East.
During the interview, Raisi asserted that Iran would have "control" over the allocation of these funds, stating, "This money is the property of the Iranian people and government, so the Islamic Republic of Iran will determine how it is utilized," as reported by an Iranian government translator.
Since the US withdrew from the JCPOA deal and re-implemented sanctions on Iran, Iranian funds worth $7 billion have been frozen in two South Korean banks, the Industrial Bank of Korea (IBK) and Woori Bank.
On August 10, US media reported that Iran and the United States had reached an agreement to exchange prisoners and unfreeze Iranian assets. While the Biden administration said it would unfreeze approximately $6 billion in Iranian oil revenue, it noted that the money would be directed towards 'humanitarian purposes.' The funds will be moved from an Iranian government account in a South Korean bank to a secure Iranian account in a Qatari bank.
Later that month, the sequestered money was moved into a European account at a Swiss bank, Iranian state-run news agency IRNA said, citing sources.