Mon, 17 Jun 2019

Iranian President Hassan Rohani has said that his country will not surrender to U.S. pressure even if it is bombed, amid growing tensions between Tehran and Washington.

Rohani made the comments on May 23, as Iran's top military chief warned that any enemy 'adventurism' would meet a crushing response.

Relations between Tehran and Washington have plummeted since President Donald Trump a year ago pulled the United States out of a 2015 nuclear accord between world powers and Iran that curbed the country's nuclear program in exchange for relief from crippling economic sanctions.

Since then, Washington has stepped up its rhetoric and reimposed sanctions.

Earlier this month, the United States beefed up its military presence in the Middle East and Persian Gulf, citing 'imminent threats' from Tehran, prompting growing concerns of a possible military conflict with Iran.

Tehran denied the allegations.

Addressing a ceremony commemorating the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war, Rohani said that the Iranians "have not bowed to pressures despite facing difficulties in their lives," according to the official IRNA news agency.

He said that Iran will not "withdraw from independence and dignity even if our land is bombed.'

Earlier in the day, the semiofficial Fars news agency quoted the Iranian Army's chief of staff, Major General Mohammad Baqeri, as saying that the U.S.-Iran standoff was a 'clash of wills.'

Baqeri warned that Iran would have a 'hard, crushing and obliterating response' for any enemy 'adventurism.'

European backers of the landmark 2015 nuclear deal -- Britain, France, Germany -- have been trying to salvage the agreement, but Tehran has complained that the process is too slow. The other signatories are Russia and China.

Earlier this month, Iran said it was suspending several commitments under the deal, and threatened to step up uranium enrichment if European countries did not act to protect it from the effects of the U.S. sanctions.

'Aggressive Rhetoric'

Keyvan Khosravi, a spokesman for the Supreme National Security Council, on May 23 reiterated that Iran will not hold talks with the United States 'under any circumstances,' IRNA reported.

Khosravi also urged the other signatories to the landmark 2015 nuclear deal to fulfill their commitments as its patience was running thin.

'As long as the rights of our nation are not satisfied, as long as words don't change into action, our path will stay the same as now,' he said.

In Moscow, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova accused Washington of trying to provoke Iran into a "direct confrontation" by 'imposing sanctions, piling on such military pressure, and using aggressive rhetoric.'

Zakharova made the comments as Reuters reported that the Pentagon is analyzing a U.S. military request to send 5,000 more troops to the Middle East.

Acting U.S. Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan confirmed that the Pentagon was considering sending additional U.S. troops to the region to bolster protection for American forces there.

However, he denied that specific numbers of troops were being considered at this point.

'What we're looking at is: Are there things that we can do to enhance force protection in the Middle East?' Shanahan said. 'It may involve sending additional troops.'

Meanwhile, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has arrived in Islamabad to hold talks with Pakistani officials on May 24.

'We believe the situation in the region is serious and needs to be addressed through dialogue by all parties,' Pakistan's Foreign Ministry said in a statement. 'We expect all sides to show restraint, as any miscalculated move, can transmute into a large-scale conflict.'

With reporting by Reuters, TASS, AFP, AP, and RFE/RL's Radio Mashaal

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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