TEHRAN (Dispatches) – Iran on Wednesday again raised the issue of 19 Iranians held in the U.S., calling for them to be released.
The remarks by Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham came a day after another official said Iran is not considering a prisoner exchange with the United States.
"The reports on the possible exchange of prisoners are not true and it is not on the table," Deputy Foreign Minister Hassan Qashqavi was quoted as saying by Iran's ISNA news agency.
There has been speculation of a prisoner swap between Iran and the United States both before and after last month's landmark nuclear accord, but both countries have consistently denied that such an agreement is imminent.
Jason Rezaian, Tehran bureau chief for the Washington Post, was arrested in July 2014 and charged with espionage. His last closed-door hearing was held in early August and the Revolutionary Court is expected to issue a verdict shortly.
Qashqavi said there were 16 Iranians jailed in the United States for bypassing sanctions, and around 60 prisoners jailed for other crimes.
Rezaian faces charges of collecting confidential information and handing it to hostile governments; writing a letter to U.S. President Barack Obama; and acting against national security.
Afkham also denied British claims that it had indicated a "more nuanced approach” to the occupying regime of Israel, saying such discussions had not taken place and that its attitude toward the Zionist regime remained unchanged.
British and Iranian officials had discussed joint cooperation between the two countries as well as regional and international policy, she said.
But she added that British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond had not discussed Tehran’s position on the Zionist regime with President Hassan Rouhani.
"During the meeting, our country’s authorities elaborated on our country’s principled and firm stances on the international developments which calls for all-out confrontation against terrorism, occupation and extremism,” Afkham said.
She made clear that there had been no change in Iran’s stance on the Zionist regime.
Hammond was in Tehran for the reopening of the UK embassy, four years after students stormed the compound, forcing its closure.
Afkham further said terrorism, extremism and interference in other countries’ internal affairs are a nonstarter. "Extremism, terrorism and foreign interference are doomed to fail.”
She noted that Iran has always favored regional and international peace and stability and opposed bullying.
Scourges facing the world such as weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), extremism and even environmental issues could be tackled through collective cooperation, said the spokeswoman.
Iran has proved that unfair sanctions imposed on the country have been inefficient and "reverence and dialog” are essential to "upgrade peace and security” in the world.
"In the past two years, Iran with its interactive approach has shown that it not only attaches significance to the regional and international peace and stability, but also has given priority to the enhancement of stability and cooperation in the region and the prevention of chaos and is ready for fresh, sincere, and in-depth dialog with all regional and Muslim countries,” Afkham said.
Afkham went on to say, "Today, the international community seeks an increase in cooperation with the Islamic Republic of Iran and Iran as a responsible country and with reliance on his diplomatic initiative has revived dialogue in the world.”
She also noted that cooperation with regional countries is one of "the fixed and principled” policies of Iran, stressing, "Stability in this region is highly important to us.”
Afkham noted that Iran is in pursuit of finding a solution for the crises in the region, adding, "In our region terrorism and extremism have presented their violent faces and there are some concerns in some countries.”
The Iranian foreign ministry spokeswoman also condemned Saudi Arabia’s military campaign against Yemen, calling on the international community to take action to stop the aggression against the impoverished Arab country.
She further noted that the Saudi aggression against Yemen "must end” and Yemeni parties without the interference of foreign states should find "a political solution” to the crisis in the country.
The foreign ministry spokeswoman also expressed Iran’s support for Iraq’s "stability, sovereignty and unity”, slamming recent attempts by US officials to renew talks on partitioning the country.
The draft of the U.S. annual defense bill, which was released on April 27 by the House Armed Services Committee, urges the American government to recognize separate Kurdish and Sunni states and provide them with at least 25% of the $715-million aid money planned to be given to the Iraqi government to help it fight the ISIL terrorist group.
Senior Iraqi officials have strongly reacted to and rejected the U.S. move.