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Boris Johnson faced calls to resign over his gaffe about Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe [Image: Reuters].

Isn’t it amazing how the Tories can coincidentally find huge amounts of money when they’re really struggling?

In this case, it was around £450 million that had been put into a bank account controlled by the High Court by the Labour government in 2002. The money is legitimately owed to Iran, but couldn’t be handed over because that country is subject to international sanctions.

So, what has changed since 2002?

Absolutely nothing. Oh – apart from the fact that Boris Johnson’s career is in danger because of his complete and utter incompetence in the case of a UK citizen imprisoned in Iran.

But – again – we’re told it is completely coincidental that Mr Johnson and Philip Hammond have authorised the payment.

Wouldn’t it be even more of a coincidence if Iran suddenly found itself far more open to the possibility of letting Mr Johnson visit that country and bring Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe back with him?

No. That would be too much to believe.

Don’t get me wrong – any tactic that actually leads to a result in favour of this unjustly-imprisoned wife and mother will be worthwhile.

But we will have to remember that Boris Johnson needs a cynical gimmick to save him.

Britain is to pay Iran more than £400m, the country’s ambassador to the UK has claimed.

Hamid Baeidinejad said the amount was an “outstanding debt” but was not linked to the case of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe – the dual British-Iranian national who is in prison in Iran.

Writing on his Telegram account, Mr Baedinejad said: “An outstanding debt owed by the UK to Tehran will be transferred to the central bank of Iran in the coming days. The payment … has nothing to do with Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s case.”

It had been widely reported in recent days that the UK Government was considering paying the amount to help persuade Iran to release Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe.

Britain owes Iran around £450m for a cancelled arms deal in the 1970s. The deal was made with the country’s then Shah, and would have seen 1,750 tanks and other vehicles sold by Britain to Iran. However, the Shah was toppled in the Islamic Revolution of 1979 and almost none of the vehicles were delivered. Britain kept the money, sparking a decades-long legal wrangle between the two countries.

The UK has since agreed to pay back some of the debt, but says it is unable to transfer the money because of international sanctions on Iran.

The amount was reportedly transferred to a bank account controlled by the High Court in 2002, but has not been passed on to Iran. Talks to resolve the issue have been going on for many years.

The Sun reported earlier this week that Mr Johnson and Philip Hammond, the Chancellor, have now authorised the payment to Iran to finally settle the dispute.

Officially, the UK Government does not make ransom payments. The Foreign Office said the issue of the debt owed to Iran was unrelated to the case of Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe.

Source: Britain to transfer outstanding £400m debt to Iran in coming days, Iranian ambassador says


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