TEHRAN (Press Shia) – Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson rejected reports that have drawn a link between the debt the UK owes to Tehran from the non-delivery of Chieftain tanks ordered decades ago and possible release of Nazanin Zaghari, a dual Iranian-British citizen jailed for espionage.
In an interview with IRIB, Saeed Khatibzadeh reacted to the reports that the British officials have acknowledged efforts to pay a debt to the Iranian government, deploring attempts to link such acknowledgment to a possible release of British dual national Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who is serving prison term in Iran after being convicted of espionage.
He said the UK government is definitely in debt to Iran for the non-delivery of Chieftain tanks ordered more than 40 years ago “no matter whether a UK government official acknowledges the debt or not.”
Ms. Zaghari has served part of her sentence in Iran and has been even released on parole, the spokesman said, noting that her case has gone through ordinary judicial procedures and is not any different from other inmates.
His comments came after UK Defense Secretary Ben Wallace for the first time acknowledged that he is actively seeking to pay a debt to the Iranian government that may finally help to secure the release of Zaghari-Ratcliffe.
The UK is thought to owe as much as £400m to the Iranian government arising from the non-delivery of Chieftain tanks ordered by the former regime of Iran before the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
An international arbitration in 2008 ruled the UK owed the debt, but in subsequent protracted court battles, lawyers acting for International Military Services, the UK Ministry of Defense’s now-defunct arms sales agency, have questioned not only the debt’s size, but at times whether any debt was payable.