Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has said Tehran was closely following United States activities, but would never initiate a conflict in the region.
Rouhani’s comments, which come at a time of rising tension between Washington and Tehran, were made during a telephone call to Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, Iranian state media reported on Saturday.
“The Islamic Republic of Iran follows America’s activities and movements closely, but it will never be the one that starts conflict and tension in the region,” Rouhani was quoted as saying during the call.
US President Donald Trump said on Wednesday he had instructed the US Navy to fire on any Iranian ships that harass US vessels at sea.
Earlier this month, the US military said 11 Revolutionary Guard naval vessels came close to US Navy and Coast Guard ships in the Gulf, calling the moves “dangerous and provocative”.
Tehran blamed its longtime adversary for the incident.
Iranian officials on Thursday accused Trump of “bullying” and said he should focus on caring for US service members infected with the coronavirus instead of making threats.
Thousands of US service members have contracted the virus, including hundreds on a stricken aircraft carrier, docked in Guam, and at least two have died from COVID-19, the deadly disease caused by the virus.
“I have ordered our naval forces to destroy any American terrorist force in the Persian Gulf that threatens security of Iran’s military or non-military ships,” General Hossein Salami, leader of Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), told state-run television.
“Security of the Persian Gulf is part of Iran’s strategic priorities,” Salami added.
Tensions between Iran and the US increased earlier this year after the US killed Qassem Soleimani, head of Iran’s elite Quds Force, in an air strike in Iraq.
The assassination brought the two countries to the brink of war.
Iran retaliated on January 8 with a rocket attack on Iraq’s Ain al-Assad base where US forces were stationed. No US troops were killed or faced immediate bodily injury, but more than 100 were later diagnosed with traumatic brain injuries.
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