TEHRAN - Iran plans to auction off the American Embassy in Tehran on behalf of an Iranian businessman arrested in a U.S. customs sting operation 15 years ago.
"The property has effectively been seized and is in my name," Hossein Alikhani told The Times of London.
Alikhani, who lives in Cyprus, sued the United States in Tehran and was awarded $550 million, the Times reported.
The embassy is where militants held 52 Americans hostage from late 1979 until early 1981. It now houses an anti-American museum and a Revolutionary Guards unit.
A U.S. State Department spokeswoman told the newspaper the department wasn't aware of the impending sale.
"Under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, even where there are no diplomatic relations, states have an obligation to respect and protect embassy premises from action such as has been indicated," the spokeswoman said. "We expect the government of Iran to ... ensure that the reported threatened sale of the mission premises does not take place."
The Times said Alikhani spent 105 days in a U.S. jail in 1992 after being abducted in the Bahamas for allegedly violating American sanctions against Libya.
He argued successfully in an Iranian court that the sanctions didn't apply to non-Americans outside the United States.
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