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Ambassador: Iran vows revenge, but has nothing against Americans

The Friday killing of Iran’s best-known military commander in a U.S. airstrike prompted an outpouring of grief in Tehran -- along with vows of vengeance. In the aftermath of Qassem Soleimani’s death, the country’s leaders and President Trump exchanged threats about what might come next. To share Iran’s perspective, Iranian Ambassador to the United Nations Majid Takht-Ravanchi joins Judy Woodruff.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    For the Iranian view of this crisis, I'm joined now by Iran's ambassador to the United Nations. He is Majid Takht-Ravanchi from New York City.

    Mr. Ambassador, welcome back to the "NewsHour."

    As you know, the Trump administration, the United States government is saying it was justified in targeting General Soleimani because, not only had he killed many Americans; he was responsible for the grievous wounding of many more, the killing of many Syrians.

    They say that this was something the Americans were completely justified in doing.

  • Majid Takht-Ravanchi:

    This is fake information that is being provided by the administration.

    In fact, there is no truth in it. If the administration has any proof, they have to provide this information to the general public, to the American people.

    What I can tell you is that General Soleimani was the champion of fighting ISIS and other terrorist organizations in Iraq and Syria. And, today, those same terrorists are very happy with what the Americans did to General Soleimani.

    They are cheering. They are celebrating the demise of martyr Soleimani. And all the things that are being said about General Soleimani is false.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    The U.S. administration, Mr. Ambassador, is also saying they have evidence that General Soleimani was planning more attacks imminently that would have led to the deaths of more Americans.

    Do you have proof that he wasn't doing that?

  • Majid Takht-Ravanchi:

    I mean, it is the United States who should provide the proof.

    If they have any proof that the threat was imminent, they should provide this information to the American people. Even the members of Congress are not satisfied that the — that this information is being relayed to them.

    And they are not satisfied with the very — that this so-called imminent threat was being, you know, conveyed to the American people. So there is no justification for the attack against General Soleimani. It was against the international law. It was against the violation — it was the violation of sovereignty and territorial integrity of a U.N. member, namely, Iraq.

    So there is no justification for that cowardly attack against General Soleimani.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    What is your government prepared to do now?

  • Majid Takht-Ravanchi:

    We have said that we have to take the necessary measures. We have to take revenge. When that would happen, how that would happen, where that would happen, that remains to be seen in the future.

    But what — we have to emphasize the fact that we are not interested in a war with the United States or with anybody else, that we are a peaceful country. But, at the same time, we cannot just remain silent. We have to respond to the general public's demand in Iran.

    I'm sure you have seen the footages today, the funeral, the ceremony in Tehran for General Soleimani. Millions of people were in the streets in Tehran, and all of them are demanding revenge. We cannot just remain indifferent to the calls by our public.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And what does revenge mean? What is the goal of that? Is that to go after the U.S. government, to go after the U.S. military, to go after American citizens, or what?

  • Majid Takht-Ravanchi:

    No, we are — we do not have any — anything against the American citizens, the people.

    But that remains to be seen what would be the reaction from Tehran. As I said, there is — nothing can be said about the timing, about the place or how this is going to happen, but this is something that will be done.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But could it mean the targeting of an individual?

  • Majid Takht-Ravanchi:

    I'm not in a position to tell you what exactly Iran will do, but that is something that has to be taken.

    And this is the demand — as I said, demand by the Iranian people, that they need something to be done by the government in order to retaliate the unjust killing of our beloved general.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But does your government consider American officials, U.S. officials, now to be legitimate targets?

  • Majid Takht-Ravanchi:

    As I said, I'm not going to elaborate on the steps that Iran will take, but, in general terms, there will be revenge against the killing of General Soleimani.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Another question, Mr. Ambassador.

    Your government has now announced that it is going to suspend any limits that it had placed on its nuclear weapons production program. Why are you doing this? And does this literally mean now that your government feels you can move ahead with producing a nuclear weapon?

  • Majid Takht-Ravanchi:

    No, we are not — we are not interested in having a nuclear weapon, because we have a very clear, clear-cut religious edict by our supreme leader prohibiting nuclear weapons.

    At the same time, there is no place for nuclear weapons in Iran's defensive doctrine. Therefore, we do not want to have nuclear weapons. We are a member of NPT. We have said, in the JCPOA, the nuclear deal, that Iran will not have nuclear weapons.

    But, at the same time, JCPOA was a deal. It was a give-and-take. We have been — we have been doing our part for some time, with almost nothing in return. Unfortunately, the European partners which were supposed to give us the benefit of the nuclear deal, they didn't act in accordance with the deal.

    If Iran is given the benefits of the deal, we will go back to the full implementation of it.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Ambassador Majid Ravanchi, the Iranian ambassador to the United Nations, thank you very much.

  • Majid Takht-Ravanchi:

    Thank you.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And we will have more on Iran right after the news summary.

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