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Iran prisoner swap shows warming relations with US

Dr Sanam Vakil

The release of a US journalist and three other dual citizens by Iran shows the extent to which relations have improved between the former foes, a Middle East analyst has said.

Dr Sanam Vakil said the releases under a bilateral prisoner swap had been a "surprise addition" to a landmark nuclear deal that saw international sanctions on Iran lifted last night.

"Its a sign of the confidence building that has come out of the nuclear agreement," she said.

Neither Iran nor the United States have had diplomatic relations for well over three decades - there's a lot of tension and mistrust.

But its sign that this is an administration in Iran that is seeking to build bridges and in areas of mutual interest there can be cooperation.

– Dr Sanam Vakil

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US citizens freed from Iran jail arrive in Switzerland

The plane with the three prisoners on board landed in Geneva

Three of four US citizens freed by Iran under a prisoner swap deal yesterday have landed safely in Switzerland.

The trio are believed to be Jason Rezaian, the Washington Post's Tehran bureau chief, Saeed Abedini, and pastor from Idaho and Amir Hekmati, a former Marine from Michigan.

The Swiss foreign ministry confirmed that the trio had arrived in Geneva, adding they were believed to have already left on the next leg of their journey back towards home soil.

Jason Rezaian was thought to be among the group Credit: Reuters

A fourth prisoner, Nosratollah Khosravi-Roodsari, was also freed by Iran yesterday but is understood not to be on the flight.

Obama: We have cut off all Iran's paths to nuclear bomb

Obama said the world was safer as a result of the nuclear deal Credit: Reuters

US president Barack Obama said the west had “cut off every single path” that Iran could have used to build a nuclear weapon through a landmark deal.

The UN yesterday confirmed that Iran had dramatically cut back its nuclear programme and dumped tonnes of uranium in return for a lifting of crippling sanctions.

Mr Obama said the world was more secure under the diplomatic leap, which will see Iran subject to intensive ongoing inspections.

"If Iran tries to cheat, if they try to build a bomb covertly we will catch them," he said.

The bottom line is this: whereas Iran was steadily expanding its nuclear programme, we have now cut off every single path that Iran could have used to build a bomb.

– Barack Obama

He also hailed the talks as opening a "unique opportunity" for diplomatic negotiations, resulting in the release of four of its citizens held by Iran under a prisoner swap.

Plane carrying freed US prisoners leaves Iran

Washington Post correspondent Jason Rezaian and his wife have left Iran, the paper confirmed. Credit: Washington Post

A Swiss plane carrying US prisoners freed by Iran on Saturday as part of a prisoner swap deal, and some family members has left Tehran, a US official has said.

"Yes, the plane has left," the official told Reuters news agency.

Jason Rezaian, the Washington Post's Tehran bureau chief, Saeed Abedini, and pastor from Idaho and Amir Hekmati, a former Marine from Michigan are believed to be heading to Switzerland.

Friends and colleagues at The Washington Post are elated by the wonderful news that Jason Rezaian has been released from Evin Prison and has safely left the country with his wife, Yeganeh Salehi

– Washington Post publisher publisher Frederick Ryan Jr
Official US and Iranian planes have been seen parked side by side on the tarmac at Geneva airport Credit: APTN

A fifth prisoner, American student Matthew Trevithick, was released separately on Saturday, the official said.

It comes as international sanctions against Iran were lifted after its government met all of its obligations under a deal agreed last July to curb its nuclear programme.

  • Update: Nosratollah Khosravi-Roodsari was also initially reported to have been on board the plane but this was later clarified as not the case by a senior US official.

Iran's President: Nuclear deal 'golden page in Iran's history'

Hassan Rouhani welcomed the lifting of international sanctions against Iran. Credit: Parspix / ABACA/PA Images

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani has hailed the lifting of international sanctions against his country as part of a nuclear deal as "a golden page in Iran's history".

Addressing parliament and presenting the draft budget for the next Iranian fiscal year, President Rouhani said the deal had "increased national confidence".

He added that the agreement would be "a turning point" in Iran's economy which has been struggling since international sanctions were introduced in response to Tehran's nuclear programme.

He called for economic reforms and less reliance on oil revenues in the post-sanctions era.

Iran is now expected to be able to access roughly $50 billion out of a reported $100 billion in holdings it has abroad.

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Hammond wants British firms to benefit from Iran deal

Britain's Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond has welcomed the lifting of international sanctions on Iran and urged British firms to take advantage of the new opportunities that would open up as Iran was brought in from the cold.

Philip Hammond urged British firms to take advantage of new links with Iran. Credit: Yui Mok / PA Wire/PA Images

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna confirmed the government in Tehran had met all of its obligations under a deal last July to curb its nuclear programme in return for the lifting of sanctions.

Mr Hammond said the findings of the IAEA inspectors had confounded sceptics who said that Iran would never give up on its nuclear programme.

The deal paves the way for Iran to resume oil exports while recouping around 100 billion dollars in frozen assets.

The nuclear deal with Iran, in which Britain played a major role, makes the Middle East and the wider world a safer place.

Years of patient and persistent diplomacy, and difficult technical work, have borne fruit as we now implement the deal.

I hope British businesses seize the opportunities available to them through the phased lifting of sanctions on Iran. The future is as important as the landmark we've reached today.

– Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond

Five US prisoners held by Iran are released from jail

A group of five US citizens including the Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian have been released from jail by Iran, John Kerry has announced.

The US Secretary of State said the men were expected to return to American soil shortly after they were set free under a prisoner swap deal.

I am very happy to say, as we speak, we have received confirmation that five Americans that have been unjustly detained in Iran have been released ... and they should be on their way home to their families before long.

– John Kerry

The swap was announced earlier today ahead of the much anticipated lifting of sanctions on Iran under a historic nuclear deal formalised tonight.

Iran prisoner swap 'marks new era for relations with the West'

The prisoner swap by Iran marks a "new era in relations with the West", a former Iranian diplomat has told ITV News.

Mehrdad Khonsari said it is a "victory for common sense and diplomacy".

Seven prisoners - including US journalist Jason Rezaian - were freed by Iran in a prisoner swap.

The release comes as Iran's foreign minister met with John Kerry in Vienna, as international sanctions are expected to be lifted on Iran.

It is a victory for common sense and diplomacy that has persevered. It's a victory for not giving up when things don't look bright and trying to work things out peacefully...

What has taken place marks the beginning of a new era in Iran's relations with the West.

– Mehrdad Khonsari

ITV News Correspondent Duncan Golestani reports:

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