WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama says the U.S. does not pay ransom for hostages.

Obama says a $1.7 billion claim settlement he approved with Iran wasn't a secret when it was finalized in January.

He says, "This wasn't some nefarious deal."

Obama was responding to the revelation, first reported by the Wall Street Journal, that $400 million of the settlement was delivered by plane to Iran in cash. The payment occurred around the time Iran released four American prisoners.

Obama says the timing of the deal was dictated by the assessment of American lawyers, who said waiting could end up costing American taxpayers billions of dollars.

He says the payment, which was announced at the time, was cash because the U.S. has no banking relationship with Iran.

Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.