US files defense of hostage deal

Anticipating possible legal challenges, the Justice Department said it had filed court papers to defend former President Carter's release of frozen Iranian assets to secure the release of the hostages.

In a 19-page "statement of interest" brief filed Tuesday it said Mr. Carter had the authority to release the assets under powers granted him by the Constitution, an emergency-powers law, and government regulations. In the brief filed in US District Court in New York and other cities, the Justice Department defended the presidential action as both legal and essential.

About 300 American corporations and individuals have lodged claims against the assets in question -- $2.4 billion in Iranian gold and securities held at the Federal Reserve Bank in New York and transferred to the Bank of England as part of the release condition s.

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