Tehran has signaled that it could accept payment in Covid vaccinations and drugs, charity worker’s husband Richard Ratcliffe told the Sunday Mirror
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Charity worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe could be home for Christmas – when Britain hands over the Â£ 400 million it owes Iran.
And Tehran signaled two weeks ago that it could accept payment in Covid vaccinations and medicines that would count as humanitarian aid.
In an exclusive interview, Nazanin’s husband Richard Ratcliffe said: â€œAll countries need vaccines. If the offer was worth more than Â£ 400 million, Iran might be interested.
â€œAnd if we pay off this debt, Nazainin could be released the next day. It would be a great Christmas present for her to be home. “
But as things stand, Richard and daughter Gabriella, 7, will spend their sixth Christmas without Nazanin despite his 21-day hunger strike in front of the Foreign Office last month.
Richard added: â€œNazanin has been very blue in the last few days as she hit the realization that we are drifting again.
â€œBut Gabriella has a lot of fun decorating the tree and helping me put lights on. After the intensity of the hunger strike, it’s also nice to have a good time. “
Nazanin, 42, has been in custody in Iran since April 2016 and was sentenced to five years in prison on charges of espionage. Now she faces another one-year prison sentence.
Britain claims it is being held hostage with other dual nationals as the two countries fight over money.
Ministers admit that money is owed for battle tanks that have never been delivered, but they keep finding other excuses not to pay for it.
In March, Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said Britain’s refusal to cough up was “a blemish on Britain’s honor”. Now the money can only be paid out if “a workable and legally viable means” is found.
State Secretary Lord Zac Goldsmith said last month the payment was a ransom.
He added, â€œPaying money becomes payment for a hostage. That is not in our current, medium or long-term interest. “
Richard said: â€œHis comments were legally illiterate and irresponsible for the message they were sending to Iran.
â€œMinisters cannot throw away words like ‘hostage’ and ‘ransom’ if they are just trying to distract parliamentary scrutiny.
“My fear is that the debt is also a leverage on the British side – they are using it to push Iran into the nuclear deal or something else – and Nazanin has become a negotiating tool for both sides.”
Middle East Minister James Cleverly refuses to talk about negotiations and says he will “make no further comments as discussions continue”.
Foreign Minister Liz Truss had talks with the Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian on November 8 and three days later with his deputy Bagheri Kani without a resolution.
In 1971 Iran ordered 1,500 Chieftain main battle tanks and 250 repair vehicles from Britain for Â£ 600 million.
Only 185 tanks were delivered before the 1979 Iranian Revolution overthrew the Shah and handed the country into the hands of Islamic clergy and Britain banned arms sales.
When the new Iranian leader Ayatollah Khomeini asked for a refund of Â£ 400 million to make up for the missing weapons, Britain refused to hand them over.
But in 2009 the International Court of Justice in The Hague ordered Great Britain to repay the money, which is still in an independent trust in the UK. Iran now wants Â£ 20m in interest, which Britain won’t pay either.
Britain has argued that the money cannot be repaid because Iran is under UN sanctions – but that hasn’t stopped America from spitting a similar sum to release four American prisoners in 2016.
And former Secretary of State Jeremy Hunt said, “We are a country that pays its debts.”
Ms. Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s family said they had been told repeatedly that their arrest was linked to UK debt.
Richard is now on two hunger strikes – the first two years ago in front of the Iranian embassy in London – but he does not want to go on a third.
He said, â€œYou are very stressful on my family and my body. So no one was planned for a while and hopefully none was necessary. “