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Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif denied the United States had shot down an Iranian drone in the Strait of Hormuz on Thursday, and said “nothing is inevitable” when asked about the potential for a military conflict between the United States and Iran.
In the latest in a series of confrontations over the last few months, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard announced it had seized a British oil tanker Friday. Last month, Iranian forces shot down an American drone that it claimed was flying above its territorial waters. The U.S. maintained the drone was still in international airspace.
In an interview, PBS NewsHour anchor and managing editor Judy Woodruff asked Zarif on Friday if he thought the United States is looking for war, to which Zarif said “they [referring to the U.S.] came to the Persian Gulf” and said “Iran did not come to the Gulf of Mexico,” adding that the U.S. “should not undermine our sovereignty, our territorial integrity or our security” in order to avoid war with Tehran. Foreign Minister Zarif said he met with members of Congress recently to discuss ways to end the stalemate.
The Iranian Foreign Minister said if the United States and Europe does not fulfill their obligations under the Iran Nuclear Deal, then Iran does have a right to continue to enrich uranium, citing a provision in the agreement which says “if one side does not fulfill its obligation, the other side may…reduce its commitments.”
He added that “one side” cannot benefit from the “positive outcomes” of the Iran Nuclear deal without doing “their part of the bargain,” but said it is not in Iran’s strategic interest to build a nuclear weapon.President Trump fulfilled a campaign promise last year when the United States pulled out of the Iran Nuclear Deal.
When asked about Americans detained in Iran, he said he would be open to exchanging them for the Iranians in U.S. prisons, adding that the United States has not reciprocated after Iran released an American. Last month, U.S. resident Nizar Zakka was released after spending four years in an Iranian prison.
Foreign Minister Zarif said Iran’s support to Shiite militias in Syria and Iraq were for groups that were “defending themselves,” while the United States’ allies are working with groups that promote violence. He added that he trusted Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to allow free and fair elections in the country, and to allow the Syrian people to pick the next president.
When asked about the ongoing war in Yemen, Zarif said Iran is prepared to meet with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, and to sign a nonaggression pact with Saudi Arabia if it stopped depending on the United States for its security in the region. Zarif also hinted that Saudi Arabia is the greatest threat to international peace, saying “if you want to look for malign behavior, if you want to look for a threat, you look at Saudi Arabia. You look at the people who butcher a journalist. Not at Tehran.”
Layla Quran is a general assignment producer for PBS NewsHour. She was previously a foreign affairs reporter and producer.
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