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Iran Says Ready For 'Comprehensive Prisoner Exchange'

Lawyer Jared Genser and Babak Namazi, the brother and son of two prisoners in Iran, who have been sentenced to lengthy prison terms in Iran, address the media in Vienna, April 25, 2017

Iran is ready for more prisoner swaps with the United States, foreign minister Javad Zarif and the Rouhani government's spokesman said Monday.

The remarks by the spokesman, Ali Rabiei, were the first after a prisoner exchange over the weekend saw Iran free a Chinese-American scholar from Princeton who had been held for three years on widely criticized espionage charges.

But Rabiei said any further negotiations would be possible through the so-called 5+1 framework — a reference to the five permanent U.N. Security Council members plus Germany — under the condition that the U.S. first lift sanctions on Iran.

Zarif tweeted "After getting our hostage back this week, fully ready for comprehensive prisoner exchange."

On Sunday, U.S. National Security Advisor Robert O'Brien also expressed hope that other "wrongfullt detained" Americans can be freed.

The scholar, Chinese-American graduate student Xiyue Wang, was freed in exchange for Iranian scientist Massoud Soleimani who had faced a federal trial in Georgia over charges he violated sanctions by trying to have biological material brought to Iran.

“We are ready to cooperate to return all Iranians unlawfully imprisoned in the U.S.,” Rabiei told reporters at a briefing in Tehran. He said however that there will be no other negotiations with the U.S. beside this issue.

Saturday's exchange was negotiated indirectly and took place in Switzerland, which looks after U.S. interests in Iran as Tehran and Washington have no diplomatic ties. The swap raised hopes of other similar actions and was seen as a rare diplomatic breakthrough between Tehran and Washington after months of tensions. But it was unclear if it would have any effect on Iranian-U.S. relations.

There are other Western detainees from the U.S. and elsewhere who remain held in Iran and who could be used as bargaining chips for future negotiations.

Others held in Iran include U.S. Navy veteran Michael White, who is serving a 10-year espionage sentence, as well as environmentalist Morad Tahbaz, an Iranian with U.S. and British citizenship also initially sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Also in Iran are 83-year-old Baquer Namazi and his son, Siamak Namazi, dual Iranian-American nationals facing 10-year sentences after they were convicted of collaborating with a hostile power. Baquer Namazi now is on a prison furlough. However, the Namazis say he remains unable to leave Iran.

Former FBI agent Robert Levinson, who vanished in Iran in 2007 while on an unauthorized CIA mission, remains missing as well. Iran says that Levinson is not in the country and that it has no further information about him, but his family holds Tehran responsible for his disappearance.

With reporting by AP