The United States expects the release of five Americans detained in Iran

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WASHINGTON — Biden administration officials expect five Americans detained in Iran to be released soon after the State Department notified Congress that Iranians will be given access to $6 billion in funds frozen in foreign accounts, a senior U.S. official said Tuesday.

Last week, Secretary of State Antony Blinken signed a memorandum that would allow $6 billion to be transferred from a bank in South Korea to another in Qatar from money the Iranians obtained through the sale of oil and other goods that were subject to sanctions. None of this money comes from US taxpayers, nor does it constitute a ransom payment, according to the official, who was not authorized to speak publicly.

The administration notified Congress on Monday of the transfer as a planned step to release the Americans, the official said. Iran can only use the funds for humanitarian purposes under the supervision of the US Treasury, Qatar and relief organizations. The official said that if Iran cheated, the funds would be frozen.

The official said that the Americans were in good health given their circumstances, according to the Swiss official who met with them. They are expected to be released soon, but the official refused to specify a date.

The detained individuals include Siamak Namazi, Imad Sharqi, Murad Tahbaz, and two Americans whose families do not want their identities revealed, according to the National Security Council.

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The agreement also includes the release of Iranians detained in the United States.

National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson confirmed the broad outlines of the swap on Tuesday, but said in a statement provided to USA TODAY that the details had not yet been finalized.

“This remains a sensitive and ongoing process,” she added. “Although this is a step in the process, no one has been or will be released into U.S. custody this week.”

Dig deeper: The United States is negotiating the release of five Americans “unjustly detained.” This is what Tehran might get.

Another person, a senior Biden administration official, told USA TODAY that it was the Trump administration that created the financing process through which Iran can tap certain funds abroad to conduct humanitarian transactions including food, medicine, medical equipment, and agricultural products. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive ongoing matters.

Iran has been unable to benefit from the specific pool of funds used in the current case, held in South Korea, due to quirks in that country’s banking and currency laws, but the Biden administration helped find a workaround that makes the funds available, the administration official said. He said.

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