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US Refuses To Allow Zarif To Visit Ambassador In Hospital Unless Iran Frees A Prisoner

FILE - Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and Majid Takht Ravanchi, Iranian UN ambassador.

Following a diplomatic deadlock between the United States and Iran this week, both sides confirmed that the State Department refused to allow foreign minister Javad Zarif to visit Iran’s ambassador to the UN, who is receiving treatment in a NY hospital.

The ambassador Majid Takht Ravanchiis battling cancer in an upper-East side hospital in Manhattan. Radio Farda’s correspondent reports that the hospital is a 20-minute walk from the United Nations, but Zarif’s visa is restricted to a small area of the city.

Reuters quoted a U.S. State Department spokesperson who said Zarif's request would be granted if Iran released one of several American citizens it had detained.

In July the United States imposed tight travel restrictions on Zarif before a visit that month to the United Nations, as well as on Iranian diplomats and their families living in New York, which Zarif described as "basically inhuman."

Unless they receive prior approval from Washington, they cannot travel outside a small area of Manhattan, Queens and to and from John F. Kennedy airport.

"Iran has wrongfully detained several U.S. citizens for years, to the pain of their families and friends they cannot freely visit," the State Department spokesperson said. "We have relayed to the Iranian mission that the travel request will be granted if Iran releases a U.S. citizen."

There have been rumors of a possible prisoner swap between the United States and Iran, but Secretary of State Mike Pompeo refused to comment on the issue on Thursday.

Reporting by Reuters