Iran dismisses possibility of conflict, says does not want war

Iran dismisses possibility of conflict, says does not want war
javad zarif

Iran's top diplomat on Saturday dismissed the possibilityof war erupting in the region, saying Tehran did not want a conflict and thatno country had the "illusion it can confront Iran", the state newsagency IRNA reported.

Tensions between Washington and Tehran have increased inrecent days, raising concerns about a potential U.S.-Iran conflict. Earlierthis week the United States pulled some diplomatic staff from its Baghdadembassy following attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf.

"There will be no war because neither do we want a war, nor has anyone the idea or illusion it can confront Iran in the region," Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told IRNA before ending a visit to Beijing.

President Donald Trump has bolstered economic sanctionsand built up U.S. military presence in the region, accusing Iran of threats toU.S. troops and interests. Tehran has described those steps as"psychological warfare" and a "political game".

"The fact is that Trump has officially said andreiterated again that he does not want a war, but people around him are pushingfor war on the pretext that they want to make America stronger againstIran," Zarif said.

He told Reuters last month that Trump could be lured intoa conflict by the likes of U.S. national security adviser John Bolton, anardent Iran hawk. In a sign of the heightened tensionacross the region, Exxon Mobil evacuated foreign staff from an oilfield inneighboring Iraq after days of sabre rattling between Washington and Tehran.

Elsewhere in the Gulf, Bahrain warned its citizens againsttraveling to Iraq or Iran due to "unstable conditions."

In Washington, officials urged U.S. commercial airliners flying over the waters of the Gulf and the Gulf of Oman to exercise caution.

A Norwegian insurers' report seen by Reuters said Iran'selite Revolutionary Guards were "highly likely" to have facilitatedthe attacks last Sunday on four tankers including two Saudi ships off Fujairahin the United Arab Emirates.

In Tehran, the commander of the Revolutionary Guards nameda new head of the force's intelligence unit on Saturday, the Fars news agencyreported.

Iranian officials have denied involvement in the tankerattacks, saying Tehran's enemies carried them out to lay the groundwork for waragainst Iran.

U.S. officials, however, are concerned that Tehran mayhave passed naval combat expertise onto proxy forces in the region.

Following the re-imposition of U.S. sanctions, a seniorIranian maritime official said Iran had adopted new tactics and newdestinations in shipping its oil exports.

Iranian crude oil exports have fallen in May to 500,000 barrels per day or lower, according to tanker data and industry sources, after the United States tightened the screws on Iran's main source of income. 

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