Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has dismissed the possibility of war breaking out in the region amid rising tensions with the US, saying that Tehran doesn’t want a conflict and no country had the “idea or illusion that it can confront Iran”.
His comments came as Washington tightened sanctions on Iran’s crude exports and has also been increasing its military assets in the Middle East in the face of what it regards as new “threats” from Tehran.
Tensions have grown between the two countries since last year when US President Donald Trump withdrew from the 2015 international deal which aimed to ease sanctions in exchange for an end to Tehran’s nuclear programme.
Calling the nuclear deal “defective”, Trump re-imposed sanctions on Iran. Following that, the latter suspended its commitments earlier this month, threatening to resume production of enriched uranium.
But Trump still says that he wants to avoid conflict.
Speaking to state news agency IRNA at the end of a visit to China on Saturday, Zarif said Trump “does not want war, but the people around him are pushing him towards war under the pretext of making America stronger against Iran”.
Washington has also ordered the departure of “non-emergency employees” from Iraq, citing intelligence about a potential threat to American forces by Iran.
US investigators have accused Iran or the groups it supports of using explosives to damage four tankers off the United Arab Emirates (UAE) earlier this month. Tehran has denied the allegations.
While leaders on both sides have insisted they do not want war, tensions in the Gulf remain high.
American diplomats warned on Saturday that commercial airlines flying in the area risk being “misidentified”.
An order, issued by the Federal Aviation Administration and relayed by diplomats in Kuwait and the UAE, said aircraft operators needed to be aware of “heightened military activities and increased political tension”.
Insurer Lloyd’s of London on Friday also widened its list of areas in and around the Gulf that pose an “enhanced risk for marine insurers”.