As tensions spike, Rouhani says Iran ‘never seeks war’ with US
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As tensions spike, Rouhani says Iran ‘never seeks war’ with US

President tells French counterpart Macron that Tehran ‘has no interest’ in ratcheting up spat with Washington, but will give a ‘decisive response’ if airspace violated again

In this photo released by an official website of the office of the Iranian Presidency, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks in a ceremony at Imam Khomeini International Airport, south of the capital Tehran on June 18, 2019. (Iranian Presidency Office via AP)
In this photo released by an official website of the office of the Iranian Presidency, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks in a ceremony at Imam Khomeini International Airport, south of the capital Tehran on June 18, 2019. (Iranian Presidency Office via AP)

TEHRAN, Iran — President Hassan Rouhani said Iran “never seeks war” with the US, state media reported Wednesday amid a spike in tensions between the two countries.

“Iran has no interest to increase tension in the region and it never seeks war with any country, including (the) US,” the president said, quoted by state news agency IRNA.

Rouhani was speaking by phone to his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron, as Tehran and Washington engaged in an escalating war of words following Iran shooting down a US drone last week.

“We have always been committed to regional peace and stability and will make efforts in this respect,” the Iranian president told Macron.

But he warned that if the US “violates the waters or airspace of Iran again, Iran’s armed forces have a duty to confront them and they will give a decisive response.”

Macron called for avoiding a “dangerous escalation” in the region.

US President Donald Trump said Friday he pulled back from retaliatory strikes on Iran at the last minute, rejecting Tehran’s claim that the aircraft was in its airspace.

The flight deck of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln in the Arabian Sea, on May 19, 2019. (Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Garrett LaBarge/US Navy via AP)

But pressure mounted this week with Trump slapping a fresh round of tough sanctions on Iran, including on its Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and top military chiefs.

The new measures announced Monday are the latest against Tehran since Trump pulled out of a landmark nuclear accord between Iran and world powers.

Rouhani blamed the United States for regional tensions Wednesday and said if Washington had stuck to the deal “we would have witnessed positive developments in the region.”

Iran announced in May it would suspend two of its pledges under the 2015 deal, giving the agreement’s remaining supporters two months to help it circumvent US sanctions.

On Tuesday, Iran warned the new US sanctions targeting its supreme leader and other top officials meant “closing the doors of diplomacy” between Tehran and Washington. The US also said they plan sanctions against Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, something that drew Rouhani’s anger during his televised address Tuesday.

“You sanction the foreign minister simultaneously with a request for talks,” an exasperated Rouhani said. He called the sanctions against Khamenei “outrageous and idiotic,” especially since the 80-year-old Shiite cleric has no plans to travel to the United States.

US President Donald Trump speaks before signing an executive order in the Grand Foyer of the White House on June 24, 2019. (Mandel Ngan/AFP)

“The White House is afflicted by mental retardation and does not know what to do,” he added in Farsi, using a term as offensive as in English.

Meanwhile, Iran’s top security official said Tuesday that Tehran would “forcefully” reduce further commitments from July 7.

Last week, US National Security Adviser John Bolton said Iran could walk through an “open door” to talks with America but also warned that “all options remain on the table” if Tehran makes good on its promise to begin breaking limits from the 2015 nuclear deal.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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