Iran’s president Ebrahim Raisi says it will spend $6bn US prisoner swap funds ‘wherever we need it’

Iran’s president has said his government will decide how it will spend $6bn released by the United States under a prisoner exchange deal.

The US has issued a sanctions waiver for international banks to transfer the billions in frozen Iranian funds – paving the way for the release of a British national and four Americans held in Iran.

The assets will be transferred from South Korea to Qatar, which Iran will then be able to use for buying humanitarian goods.

But in an exclusive interview with NBC News, Sky’s US partner network, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi said: “This money belongs to the Islamic Republic of Iran and naturally we will decide, the Islamic Republic of Iran, will decide to spend wherever we need it.”

Asked by NBC News presenter Lester Holt, in Tehran, if the money will be used for more than humanitarian purposes, Mr Raisi replied: “Humanitarian means whatever the Iranian people need.

“This money will be budgeted for those needs and the needs of the Iranian people will be decided and determined by the Iranian government.”

US secretary of state Antony Blinken signed off on the deal last week, but Congress was only informed on Monday.

Four of those held in Iran were released from prison and placed under house arrest last month, according to US officials.

The US-Iranian dual nationals include businessmen Siamak Namazi, 51, and Emad Shargi, 58, as well as environmentalist Morad Tahbaz, 67, who has British citizenship.

They had all been jailed at the notorious Evin Prison in Tehran on spying charges.

The identity of the fourth US citizen allowed out of prison has not been made public, while a fifth man was already under house arrest.

The agreement also includes the release of five unnamed Iranian citizens held in the US.