President Hassan Rouhani said that Iran was not seeking conflict with the United States in West Asia and questioned why US forces remained in the region. President Donald Trump's administration has withdrawn from a nuclear deal with Iran, slapped back sanctions and vowed to roll back the Shiite power's role in the region including in Syria, Yemen and Iraq.
Attending the UN General Assembly, Rouhani defended Iran's military support for the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who is a member of the minority Alawite sect, as a bulwark to defeat the Islamic State extremist group. "Our presence in Syria will continue for such time that the Syrian government requests our presence," Rouhani told a news conference Wednesday.
"We do not wish to go to war with American forces anywhere in the region. We do not wish to attack them; we do not wish to increase tensions. "But we ask the United States to adhere to laws and to respect national sovereignty of nations," he said.
The Trump administration enjoys close relations with Iran's regional rivals Saudi Arabia and Israel and has warned Tehran that it is closely watching its actions. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, addressing a pressure group on Tuesday, vowed to act "swiftly and decisively" to any Iranian action that damages US interests in the region. Rouhani quipped: "When the secretary of state says we will be held to account, why have they gone to Iraq in the first place?"
Rouhani also predicted that the United States would eventually rejoin an international nuclear deal, saying talks this week at the United Nations showed his counterpart Donald Trump's isolation. "The United States of America one day, sooner or later, will come back. This cannot be continued," Rouhani told the news conference. "We are not isolated; America is isolated," he said.
Rouhani pointed to a session of the Security Council chaired by Trump earlier om Wednesday, where the leaders of Britain and France backed the nuclear deal, as well as a statement by European powers who say they will find ways to continue business with Iran and evade impending sanctions. "We do hope with all the law-abiding and multilateral-oriented countries that we can ultimately put this behind us in an easier fashion than it was earlier anticipated," Rouhani said. The elected Iranian leader said that his government would stay in the 2015 agreement, under which Tehran sharply scaled back its nuclear program in return for sanctions relief.
"Until such time that we keep reaping the benefits of that agreement for our nation and people, we shall remain in the agreement," he said. "Should the situation change, we have other paths and other solutions that we can embark upon," he said. Rouhani downplayed the sharp words from the US administration, including a warning Tuesday by Trump's national security advisor, John Bolton, that Iran would have "hell to pay" if it crosses the United States. "During the past 40 years we have been subjected to that type of language many times," he said. "In this American administration, unfortunately, the language has been said to be somewhat unique and they speak with a different style, presumably because they are new to politics," he said.
With inputs from AFP
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Updated Date: Sep 27, 2018 10:21:36 IST