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Lawmaker: U.S. Payment To Iran Looks Like 'Ransom' For Prisoners

A powerful U.S. lawmaker is demanding that Secretary of State John Kerry explain why he paid a $1.7 billion claim settlement to Iran the same day Tehran released American prisoners last month.

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce charged that the payment looked like a "de facto ransom for the release of American hostages" in a February 3 letter to Kerry. "Indeed, an Iranian Basij commander has called it as much," he said.

On January 17, the department said the United States and Iran had settled a long-standing claim at the Iran-U.S. Claims Tribunal in The Hague, releasing to Tehran $400 million in funds frozen since 1981 plus $1.3 billion in interest.

The White House said at the time the settlement was a better alternative than letting more interest accumulate while waiting for a legal judgment.

Royce asked Kerry to provide by February 17 lists of all U.S. officials who participated in negotiations with Iran over the settlement agreement and the prisoner release.

He also asked for an explanation of how the settlement's interest payment was calculated.

Based on reporting by Reuters