$400M Payment to Iran as Americans Freed Not a Ransom: White House

The White House on Wednesday denied suggestions that a $400 million cash payment to Iran in January was a "ransom" to free four Americans being held in Tehran — characterizing the move as coincidental.

A Wall Street Journal report Tuesday characterized the Obama administration's payment to Iran as a "secretly organized" airlift of cash to Tehran. It did not say when in January the money was received in Iran.

But, State Department spokesman John Kirby said that sum was actually part of a $1.7 billion settlement to Iran for an outstanding legal dispute that had been before an international tribunal in The Hague, adding that the negotiations over the settlement were "completely separate" from the hostage discussion.

"Not only were the two negotiations separate, they were conducted by different teams on each side, including, in the case of the Hague claims, by technical experts involved in these negotiations for many years," Kirby said.

The money was owed to the Islamic republic following a failed arms deal dating back to 1979, NBC News reported.

The State Department formally announced the settlement terms on Jan. 17 — a day after the four Americans were freed.

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