The Obama administration is refusing to say which country helped it carry out a $1.3 billion payment to Iran to settle a long-standing legal dispute and ensure that American prisoners held by Iran were released.

"What we have acknowledged is that we were able to coordinate with a central bank using the money in these [negative judgment] funds to essentially be a partner of ours in executing this transaction," White House spokesman Josh Earnest reiterated on Thursday. "We have not disclosed the identity of that central bank, primarily because we're trying to protect the privacy of our partner, who had essentially done us a favor here."

Earnest explained that the third country prefers the world not to know that it conducts banking business with Tehran, given its continued status as a pariah state and remaining United Nations sanctions against it.

The other country wants anonymity "because Iran is a country that is isolated and they do have a bad reputation," he said.

"And our ability to maintain our credibility and work with central banks around the world is contingent upon us living up to our commitments," he added. "And we made a commitment to protect their confidentiality, and so that's what we've done."