US to release frozen Iranian assets for prisoner release

The US government says it will lift a freeze on some Iranian assets to secure the release of five American citizens imprisoned by Tehran.

US State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said on Tuesday that the United States will free up 6 billion dollars held by Iran in South Korea. The freeze was imposed as part of sanctions on Iran.

Miller said, "There are always tough choices involved in bringing home American citizens," but that the US government decided securing the return of the five is the top priority.

He also said the freed funds can be used only for humanitarian purposes such as buying food and medicine. He added that the US Treasury Department will have strict oversight of the spending.

Iran's state-run news agency has reported that five Iranian nationals held in the US will also be released under the deal.

The US and Iran are holding indirect talks to revive their 2015 nuclear agreement to limit Tehran's nuclear activities. But the talks have been stalled, with the two sides unable to bridge gaps.

Miller was asked by reporters whether the latest agreement will lead to progress in the talks.

Miller said the deal and the talks are "separate matters" and that "what's next ultimately depends on Iran and what it's willing to do." He added that the US remains committed to ensuring that Iran never obtains a nuclear weapon.