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‘Iran not looking for war’ airstrike was our response: Envoy

‘Iran not looking for war’ airstrike was our response: Envoy

New Delhi: Iran’s Ambassador to India Ali Chegeni on Wednesday said that Tehran is “not looking for war,” a statement which comes amid heightened tension between the US and Tehran following the killing of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani.

“We are not looking for war. We are living in this region peacefully with our brothers and sisters including India. We don’t want any tension or escalation in this region,” Chegeni told media persons here.

Soleimani, the head of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards’ elite Quds Force, was killed in a US drone strike ordered by President Donald Trump near Baghdad International Airport in Iraq last Friday.

His death marked a dramatic escalation in tension between the US and Iran, that has often been at a fever pitch since Trump, in 2018, chose to unilaterally withdraw Washington from the 2015 nuclear pact the world powers had struck with Tehran.

Iran today fired a number of missiles at two Iraqi bases housing US troops in retaliation for the American strike.

Responding to a question related to today’s airstrike, the ambassador said: “Whatever we have done is a part of our response.”

“Millions of people who participated in the funeral of General Qasem Soleimani had demanded the government for it. We have done it. We are not looking for war,” he said.

The envoy further said that India is a part of the region and therefore Tehran will welcome any initiative to curb the escalation of tension by its “good friends.”

“India is a part of the region. It should be a part of de-escalation. We are welcoming any initiative from our good friends from India,” Chegeni noted.

Soleimani’s killing has once again put a question on the completion and operationalisation of the strategic Chabahar port, located in the Sistan-Baluchistan province on Iran’s southeastern coast.

Clarifying further doubts on the issue, the envoy said the port is a symbol of very good friendship between India and Iran and the work will continue without any hindrance.

“Chabahar Port is a symbol of very good friendship among India, Iran, Afghanistan, Commonwealth of Independent States, Europe, and the whole of Persian Gulf. It does not belong only to Iran and India. Chabahar will go on. Don’t worry about it,” he said.

Media reports say that just a fortnight ago, India had achieved a breakthrough by securing a written assurance from the US to exempt this Iranian port from sanctions.

India is developing this port to secure connectivity to Afghanistan and Central Asia, bypassing Pakistan.

India is hosting Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif next week to explore options to safeguard Chabahar port as well as its energy and financial interests amid the escalating tensions.

India and Iran had signed a deal in May 2016 to equip and operate the container and multi-purpose terminals at Shahid Beheshti — Chabahar Port Phase-I — by investing USD 85.21 million. It was decided that both the countries will share revenues.

India’s energy security is also directly linked to the Gulf. It has cut down the import of Iranian crude to a large extent over the past few years, but the Chabahar port remains a cornerstone of India’s connectivity aspirations to play an active role in Afghanistan and Central Asia.

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