Rouhani’s comments were made during a telephone call to Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani [Presidency of Iran handout via Reuters]
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has said Tehran was closely following United States activities, but would never initiate a conflict in the region.
Rouhani’s comments, which come at a time of rising tension between Washington and Tehran, were made during a telephone call to Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, Iranian state media reported on Saturday.
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“The Islamic Republic of Iran follows America’s activities and movements closely, but it will never be the one that starts conflict and tension in the region,” Rouhani was quoted as saying during the call.
US President Donald Trump said on Wednesday he had instructed the US Navy to fire on any Iranian ships that harass US vessels at sea.
Earlier this month, the US military said 11 Revolutionary Guard naval vessels came close to US Navy and Coast Guard ships in the Gulf, calling the moves “dangerous and provocative”.
Tehran blamed its longtime adversary for the incident.
Iranian officials on Thursday accused Trump of “bullying” and said he should focus on caring for US service members infected with the coronavirus instead of making threats.
Thousands of US service members have contracted the virus, including hundreds on a stricken aircraft carrier, docked in Guam, and at least two have died from COVID-19, the deadly disease caused by the virus.
“I have ordered our naval forces to destroy any American terrorist force in the Persian Gulf that threatens security of Iran’s military or non-military ships,” General Hossein Salami, leader of Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), told state-run television.
“Security of the Persian Gulf is part of Iran’s strategic priorities,” Salami added.
Tensions between Iran and the US increased earlier this year after the US killed Qassem Soleimani, head of Iran’s elite Quds Force, in an air strike in Iraq.
The assassination brought the two countries to the brink of war.
Iran retaliated on January 8 with a rocket attack on Iraq’s Ain al-Assad base where US forces were stationed. No US troops were killed or faced immediate bodily injury, but more than 100 were later diagnosed with traumatic brain injuries.
Iran’s Rouhani says COVID-19 measures may be eased within weeks
Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani has said he expects measures taken to combat the spread of the highly infectious coronavirus, including social distancing, to be eased within the next two to three weeks. Accusing “counter-revolutionaries” of attempting to shut down economic production, Rouhani said in a televised address on Saturday his country “has to do everything” to…
Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani has said he expects measures taken to combat the spread of the highly infectious coronavirus, including social distancing, to be eased within the next two to three weeks.
Accusing “counter-revolutionaries” of attempting to shut down economic production, Rouhani said in a televised address on Saturday his country “has to do everything” to return economic activity back to normal.
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Iran is one of the hardest-hit countries worldwide by the virus, with an official death toll only behind Italy and China. On Saturday, the health ministry’s latest tally said the death toll had risen by more than 100 to 1,556, while the number of infected people stood at 20,610. A total of 7,635 people have recovered in Iran.
Al Jazeera’s Zein Basravi, reporting from the capital, Tehran, said Rouhani tried to “strike a balance” between addressing the public health crisis and maintaining the country’s economic and sociopolitical stability going forward.
“This is a country that has lost patience with its own government over a series of crises that the country has experienced in the last few months,” he said.
Already reeling from years of economic sanctions following US President Donald Trump’s 2018 withdrawal from a nuclear deal Iran had signed with world powers three years earlier, the country’s inability to procure badly needed medical equipment from international markets has hampered its efforts to combat COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.
Since announcing its first two COVID-19 deaths in the holy Shia city of Qom on February 19, Iran has taken a series of steps to contain the virus.
It has closed schools and universities until early April, as well as four key pilgrimage sites, including the Fatima Masumeh shrine in Qom.
Iran has also cancelled the main weekly Friday prayers, and temporarily closed Parliament.
In a speech marking the start of the Persian new year, known as Nowruz, Rouhani on Friday defended the government’s response to the outbreak in the face of widespread criticism that officials acted too slowly and may have even covered up initial cases before infections rapidly spread across the country.
He also praised doctors and nurses for their courage in fighting COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.
“Our nation has managed to reach its goals, despite difficulties … Iran will overcome the coronavirus with unity,” Rouhani said.
Iranian authorities have asked people to avoid all travel during the Persian New Year holidays, which usually sees almost all citizens take to the streets. But the pleas have been ignored by many.
According to the Iranian Red Crescent, about three million people have left the 13 worst-hit provinces by road since March 17.
Health ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said on Saturday there was “a minority who did not follow the guidelines”, warning that provinces popular with tourists would not welcome visitors for the Nowruz holiday.
Rouhani: Iran enriching more uranium than before 2015 deal
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has said that his country is enriching more uranium than Tehran did before it agreed to a nuclear deal with world powers in 2015. “We are enriching more uranium before the deal was reached … Pressure has increased on Iran but we continue to progress,” Rouhani said on Thursday in a televised speech. More:…
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has said that his country is enriching more uranium than Tehran did before it agreed to a nuclear deal with world powers in 2015.
“We are enriching more uranium before the deal was reached … Pressure has increased on Iran but we continue to progress,” Rouhani said on Thursday in a televised speech.
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Iran has gradually scaled back its commitments under the nuclear deal, signed with the US, China, Russia, Germany, France and the UK, in retaliation for Washington’s withdrawal from the pact in 2018 and its reimposition of sanctions that have crippled the country’s economy.
Earlier in the week, the United Kingdom, France and Germany challenged Tehran over breaking the limits set out in the deal.
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The European nations announced that they triggered the dispute mechanism provided for in the landmark agreement in order to force Tehran to honour its commitments under the accord, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
On Thursday the EU’s top diplomat Josep Borrell held “frank” direct talks with Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in New Delhi.
“In a frank dialogue, they discussed the latest developments around the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action,” the European Union said in a statement.
The face-to-face talks on the sidelines of a conference were the first following a series of telephone calls since a US drone strike killed top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani on January 3.
EU officials have said Iran already expressed anger at the European move by telephone.
‘Prevent military confrontation’
Tensions in the region have simmered in recent months after a series of attacks in the Gulf region that the US blamed on Iran and aligned groups, despite denials from Tehran.
Fears of a military escalation soared in early January after the assassination of Soleimani in an air strike in Baghdad, prompting Iran to fire a barrage of missiles at a military base housing US troops in Iraq.
In his speech on Thursday, Rouhani said that the Iranian retaliation – which caused significant material damage but no casualties according to the US military – had strengthened Iranian deterrence against the “threats” of US President Donald Trump.
But despite the continuing tensions, Rouhani said Tehran was working daily “to prevent military confrontation and war” and that dialogue with the world remained “possible”.
The 2015 nuclear deal imposed restrictions on the Iranian nuclear programme in exchange for a reprieve from international sanctions.
After unilaterally withdrawing, the US has reimposed a range of sanctions on Tehran and called for negotiations over a new accord.
Iran has rejected the idea of negotiating a new deal while it is under sanctions.
In response to the US move, Tehran has begun enriching uranium above the cap agreed in the deal and taken further steps to enhance its nuclear programme, while also accusing the European parties to the deal of failing to live up to their own commitments to provide economic relief to Tehran.
Iran had been enriching uranium at 20 percent purity before it signed the deal, which capped enrichment at 3.67 percent.
Al Jazeera’s Assed Baig reporting from Tehran said that Rouhani had sent a defiant message to the world, saying that Iran is reducing committments, but also adding that these reductions are reversible if European countries return to their obligations to that deal.
“He’s saying to European countries that they need to stand up to the US,” Baig said.
“These sanctions have hit Iran’s oil sector, the banking sector and the economy and he accepted this – that Iran’s oil exports have been reduced, but the economy is still working, according to Rouhani.”
Rouhani defended the 2015 nuclear deal in his speech saying, “we have proven in practice that it is possible for us to interact with the world”.
Rouhani warns foreign forces in Middle East ‘may be in danger’
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani told foreign powers to withdraw their forces from the Middle East, warning they “may be in danger” if they remain in the region. “Today, the American soldier is in danger, tomorrow the European soldier could be in danger,” Hassan Rouhani said in televised remarks on Wednesday, without elaborating. Rouhani’s comments mark the…
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani told foreign powers to withdraw their forces from the Middle East, warning they “may be in danger” if they remain in the region.
“Today, the American soldier is in danger, tomorrow the European soldier could be in danger,” Hassan Rouhani said in televised remarks on Wednesday, without elaborating.
Rouhani’s comments mark the first time he has threatened European countries amid heightened tensions with the United States.
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The comments came a day after the United Kingdom, France and Germany challenged Tehran over breaking limits of a major nuclear deal signed in 2015 between Iran and six world powers.
The European nations announced on Tuesday that they triggered the dispute mechanism provided for in the landmark agreement in order to force Tehran to honour its commitments under the accord, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), from which US President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew in 2018.
Friction in the region escalated in recent months after a series of attacks in the Gulf region that Washington blamed on Iran and its proxies, over Iranian denials.
Fears of an all-out war emerged earlier in January after a US air strike killed top Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad, prompting retaliatory Iranian missile strikes against US targets in Iraq.
European forces have been deployed alongside American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. France also maintains a naval base in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, while Britain has opened a base on the island nation of Bahrain.
European Commission spokesman Peter Stano told reporters that officials were aware of the threats, but the European Union had no plans to leave Iraq.
Italian Defense Minister Lorenzo Guerini told lawmakers his government has plans to increase Rome’s troop levels in the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow mouth of the Gulf through which 20 percent of all oil passes.
German Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, meanwhile, made an unannounced visit on Wednesday to the Azraq base in Jordan, where German troops serving in the fight against the ISIL (ISIS) armed group are based. Germany wants to resume training Iraqi forces.
Separately, Rouhani also dismissed a proposal for a new “Trump deal” to replace the JCPOA, saying it was a “strange” offer and criticising the US president for breaking promises.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who has praised Trump as a great dealmaker, called on Tuesday for Trump to replace the Iranian nuclear deal with his own new pact to ensure the Islamic republic does not get an atomic weapon – Iran has pledged that it does not seek the bomb.
“Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, @BorisJohnson, stated, ‘We should replace the Iran deal with the Trump deal,'” Trump said in a tweet. “I agree!”
Trump in May 2018 withdrew the US from the deal, in which Tehran had agreed to curb its nuclear programme in exchange for a reprieve from international sanctions. The US has since reimposed a range of sanctions on Tehran and called for negotiations over a new accord.
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, @BorisJohnson, stated, “We should replace the Iran deal with the Trump deal.” I agree!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 15, 2020
In response to the US move, Tehran has begun uranium enrichment again and enhancing its nuclear programme, while also accusing the European parties to the deal of failing to live up to their own commitments to provide economic relief to Tehran.
Reporting from Tehran, Al Jazeera’s Assed Baig said Rouhani urged the European powers to live up to their commitments in the nuclear deal and not give in to US demands.
“Rouhani stressed that all the steps Iran took in response to the US withdrawal from the deal were reversible,” Baig said.
“He said this is a good deal for Iran, but Tehran would keep fulfilling its commitments only if European parties to the deal do so as well.”
Also on Wednesday, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif accused the European parties to the deal of violating its terms.
“They are not buying oil from us, all of their companies have withdrawn from Iran. So Europe is in violation,” Zarif told a conference in New Delhi, saying the future of the deal now “depends on Europe”.
He added that the European Union “is the largest global economy. So why do you allow the United States to bully you around?”
Zarif also said the US killing of Soleimani had served only to strengthen the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, or ISIS) group.
“I think the war against Daesh [ISIL] just suffered a major setback, and Daesh just won a major victory,” he said.
He also implied that the crisis sparked by the killing of Soleimani had contributed to Iran’s accidental shooting down of a Ukrainian airliner on January 8, killing all 176 people on board.
“Why did it happen? Because there was a crisis. People make mistakes, unforgivable mistakes, but it happened in the time of the crisis,” Zarif said.
Later on Wednesday, Iranian state media said the British ambassador to Iran had left the country, amid a dispute over his attendance at an anti-government demonstration. The state-run IRNA news agency reported that Robert Macaire had left Iran after being given “prior notice”.
The British foreign office said that Macaire’s trip to London was “routine, business as usual” and was pre-planned.
“It is quite normal for our ambassadors to come back to London to have meetings here,” a foreign office spokesman said.
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