Pakistan PM warns against war in region
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Saturday a US decision to deploy 1,500 additional troops to the Middle East is a "threat to international peace".
"Increased US presence in our region is very dangerous and a threat to international peace and security and must be confronted," Zarif told IRNA before heading home from a visit to Pakistan.
The US says the reinforcements, which come after the deployment earlier this month of an aircraft carrier task force, B-52 bombers, an amphibious assault ship and a missile system, are in response to a "campaign" of recent attacks approved by Iran.
Those include a rocket launched into the Green Zone in Baghdad, explosive devices that damaged four tankers near the entrance to the Persian Gulf, and a drone attack by Yemeni fighters on a key Saudi oil pipeline.
Iran has denied involvement in any of the attacks.
"Americans make such claims to justify their hostile policies and to create tension in the Persian Gulf," Zarif said.
During his visit to Pakistan, Zarif held talks with top officials including Prime Minister Imran Khan who warned against the risk of conflict in the region.
Khan said he was concerned about the "rising tensions” in the Persian Gulf.
"He underscored that war was not a solution to any problem," Khan's office said in a statement late on Friday, citing the premier.
"Further escalation in tensions in the already volatile region was not in anyone's interest. All sides needed to exercise maximum restraint in the current situation," he said after meeting with Zarif.
The United States this month ended the last exemptions it had granted to eight major buyers of Iran’s crude from sweeping unilateral sanctions it reimposed after abandoning a landmark 2015 nuclear between major powers and Iran in May last year.
Iran has appealed repeatedly to the other parties to the 2015 nuclear deal – Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia – to rescue it from renewed US sanctions, so far to little avail.
Britain, France and Germany launched a special payment system, called INSTEX – the Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges – in late January to enable Iran to keep trading with European companies.
But in March Iran's Leader Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei dismissed the mechanism as a "bitter joke".
Earlier this month, on the first anniversary of Washington's withdrawal from the agreement, Tehran announced it was rolling back some of the limits on its nuclear activities it had agreed under the deal.
It threatened to suspend more if there was no action from the major powers within 60 days on honoring their own commitments to sanctions relief.
The European powers came out against Iran's threat to resume nuclear work but urged the US not to further escalate tensions with a military build-up.
The successive US deployments have raised concerns, even among governments close to Washington that brinkmanship with Iran could lead to a dangerous miscalculation.
The sultanate of Oman, which has acted as a broker between Iran and the United States in the past, said it was trying reduce tensions, following a visit to Tehran this week by state minister for foreign affairs Yusuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah.
Jens Ploetner, a political director in Germany’s Foreign Ministry, was in Tehran on Thursday for meetings with Iranian officials to try to preserve the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and cool tensions in the region.
On Tuesday, Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi announced that he was sending delegations to the US and Iran in an attempt to ease tensions between the two countries, which are both key Baghdad allies.
Tehran has refused to hold talks with Washington "under any circumstances" if the rights of the Islamic republic are not respected.
AFP and Reuters contributed to this story.