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12 Jun, 2019 17:43

Iran does not want war, but will defend itself from attack – Rouhani

Iran does not want war, but will defend itself from attack – Rouhani

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said that his country was not interested in starting a military conflict, but insisted it would defend itself from foreign aggression.

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday after a meeting in Tehran with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Rouhani warned against any attack on the Islamic Republic.

“Iran will never initiate a war but will give a crushing response to any aggression,” Rouhani said at a joint news conference alongside the Japanese PM.

Despite increasingly poor relations with Washington, however, the president said that Iran would do its best to stay within the 2015 nuclear pact signed with world powers, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

“Iran will remain committed to the deal, which is important for the security of the region and the world,” he said, adding “Tehran and Tokyo both oppose nuclear weapons.”

The president also indicated that Japan would like to continue buying Iranian oil, which is currently penalized by several layers of US sanctions, although it is unclear whether Japan intends to go forward with the purchases.

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After his meeting with Rouhani, PM Abe said he hoped to play a role in mediating tensions between Tehran and Washington, stating that peace and stability in the Middle East is “indispensable” for global prosperity.

“Amid rising tension, it is essential for Iran to play a constructive role in strengthening peace and stability in the Middle East, so that this region won't be destabilized further or accidental clashes won't happen,” Abe told reporters.

Abe previously said that Japan “wants to do all that it can” to help Iran and the US improve relations, an idea that may have been hatched in meetings with US President Donald Trump in late May. Abe’s offer came immediately after the two leaders met.

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Reacting to Wednesday’s meeting in Tehran, President Trump lobbed critiques from the White House, telling reporters that Iran was “in chaos, they’ve got a lot of problems.”

In recent months, the Trump administration has embarked on another so-called “maximum pressure campaign” intended to convince Iran to relitigate the nuclear deal, which Washington unilaterally decided to scrap last year. While the other signatories, including Iran, remain within the deal, Washington’s participation is seen as vital, as Iran’s major concern is US sanctions relief.

Hostile rhetoric on both sides, new crippling sanctions imposed on Iran’s economy and provocative deployments of US military assets in the Persian Gulf have stoked concerns about an impending war, but Iran’s response has so far been subdued. Still, the Iranian leadership is hesitant to accept new talks after Washington so readily threw away months of arduous negotiations that preceded the 2015 deal.

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