- The Washington Times - Friday, August 19, 2016

The State Department on Friday said there are no apologies for using a $400 million payment to Iran as “leverage” right around the time that U.S. hostages were released by the country.

“First of all, this was Iran’s money. It was money that they were going to get back anyway,” State Department spokesman John Kirby said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

“To the degree there was a quid pro quo, it was [that] they got their principal back, and we got a much more advantageous interest payment schedule,” he said.

Mr. Kirby said there was a team working to get American hostages being held by the country back on a separate track.

“It’s true that with the nuclear deal done, these two tracks were kind of converging and coming together, and we took full advantage of that, and we make no apologies for that,” he said.

“We did use it as leverage, and we make no apologies about that because now we got our American citizens back safely,” Mr. Kirby said.

He said nowhere in the discussions about getting the U.S. hostages was there talk about “paying ransom” to get them back.

Asked Thursday if the U.S. wouldn’t pay Iran the money until the hostages were released, Mr. Kirby had said: “That’s correct.”

Republicans said the statement was an admission that the $400 million payment was, in fact, a ransom.

“The president owes the American people a full accounting of his actions and the dangerous precedent he has set,” said House Speaker Paul D. Ryan.

The administration has said the money was the first payment of a $1.7 billion settlement of a decades-old arms agreement that had been unresolved.

“We do not pay ransom,” President Obama said on Aug. 4.

• David Sherfinski can be reached at dsherfinski@washingtontimes.com.

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