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US sent $400 million in cash to Iran as prisoners were freed, WSJ reports

A staff removes the Iranian flag from the stage after a group picture with foreign ministers and representatives of Unites States, Iran, China, Russia, Britain, Germany, France and the European Union during the Iran nuclear talks at Austria International Centre in Vienna, Austria on July 14, 2015.
Carlos Barria | AFP | Getty Images
A staff removes the Iranian flag from the stage after a group picture with foreign ministers and representatives of Unites States, Iran, China, Russia, Britain, Germany, France and the European Union during the Iran nuclear talks at Austria International Centre in Vienna, Austria on July 14, 2015.

The U.S. airlifted $400 million of cash to Iran, with the payment coinciding with the January release of four Americans held in Tehran, The Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday, citing officials briefed on the covert operation.

Euros, Swiss francs and other currencies were packed into wooden pallets and flown to Iran on an unmarked cargo plane, the paper added. The money was procured from the Dutch and Swiss central banks.

The payment was made in foreign currency as it is illegal under U.S. laws to deal with Iran in dollars. Iran also still faces sanctions limiting its access to global markets.

The money was the first installment of a $1.7 billion settlement the Obama administration reached with Iran earlier to resolve a dispute about the non-delivery of U.S. arms purchased by Iran's last monarch, Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. The goods were never delivered as the Iranian Revolution broke out soon after in 1979.

The cash has been portrayed as ransom payment by the Iranian press, although the country's foreign ministry didn't respond to a request for comment, the WSJ added.

Senior U.S. officials cited by the WSJ noted the payment and the prisoner exchange were coincidental and did not represent any quid pro quo.

To read the full WSJ article, click here.

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