Iran's Raisi says five Americans were released purely on humanitarian grounds

FILE PHOTO: Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi speaks during the official farewell ceremony for his trip to New York, in Tehran

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Iran's President Ebrahim Raisi said on Monday that the release of five American detainees by Tehran was "purely a humanitarian action" as they left Iran under a Qatar-mediated deal that involved the release of $6 billion Iranian funds in South Korea.

"This was purely a humanitarian action ... And it can certainly be a step based upon which in the future other humanitarian actions can be taken," Raisi told a group of journalists after his arrival in New York to attend the United Nations General Assembly.

Iranian authorities said the five Iranians detained by the United States and charged with committing crimes had been freed, an apparent reference to their being granted clemency. Two arrived in Doha, U.S. and Iranian officials said.

It was unclear whether the exchange might result in progress on the many disputed issues between the arch foes, including Iran's nuclear program, Tehran's support for regional Shi'ite militias, the presence of U.S. troops in the Gulf and U.S. sanctions on Iran.

"Unfortunately history has shown the lack of trust towards the United States because it has trampled upon commitments and broken promises repeatedly," Raisi said.

Iranian authorities have not ruled out the possibility of indirect meetings between Tehran and Washington in New York to revive Iran's 2015 nuclear pact with six powers that then-U.S. president Donald Trump ditched in 2018 and reimposed sanctions on Iran.

(Reporting by Don Durfee; Writing by Parisa Hafezi; Editing by Andrew Heavens, William Maclean)