Tehran (AFP) – Iran signalled Sunday it favours “de-escalation” after 10 days of heightened tensions with the United States that saw both sides fire missiles and led Tehran to accidentally shoot down a passenger aircraft.
Security was stepped up in Iran’s capital after a vigil the previous night for those killed in the air disaster turned into an angry protest and police temporarily arrested the British ambassador for being there.
US President Donald Trump meanwhile warned Iran against harming demonstrators and against a repeat of a deadly crackdown against rallies in November sparked by a fuel price hike.
“To the leaders of Iran – DO NOT KILL YOUR PROTESTERS,” Trump tweeted in his occasional all-capitals style.
US Defence Secretary Mark Esper however said Trump was still willing to “sit down and discuss without precondition a new way forward” with Iran, but Tehran has steadfastly refused to hold talks with Washington unless it lifts sanctions first.
Tehran said it was interested in easing tensions in the region amid a standoff with arch-enemy Washington, which on January 3 killed a revered Iranian general, Quds Force chief Qasem Soleimani, in a Baghdad drone strike.
– ‘A critical time’ –
In a meeting between Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani and the emir of Qatar, both sides agreed de-escalation is the “only solution” to the regional crisis, the emirate’s ruler said afterwards.