Iran's Raisi urges Japan to release frozen funds, then wavers

Iran's President Ebrahim Raisi visits Zimbabwe

DUBAI (Reuters) -Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi called on Japan on Tuesday to display its independence from Washington by releasing Tehran's frozen assets amid U.S. sanctions - and then said the only blocked Iranian funds were being held in South Korea.

"Japan should act independently from the U.S. by releasing our blocked funds," Raisi said when asked by a Japanese reporter about $1.5 billion of blocked funds in Japan.

He then appeared to contradict himself.

"I must clarify that our Central Bank earlier said we only had unjustly frozen funds in South Korea. All other assets abroad are at the disposal of Iran's Central Bank," Raisi said.

Tehran and Washington have reached an agreement in which five U.S. citizens held in Iran will be freed in exchange for $6 billion of Iranian assets frozen in South Korea.

On Aug. 10, Iran allowed four detained U.S. citizens to move into house arrest from Tehran's Evin prison. A fifth was already under home confinement.

They are expected to leave Iran when the money reaches accounts in Qatar.

(Reporting by Dubai Newsroom;Editing by Andrew Cawthorne and Nick Macfie)