Washington: US President Donald Trump said Saturday he will impose additional sanctions against Iran in an effort to prevent Tehran from obtaining nuclear weapons, adding that military action was still a possibility.
Trump, who was speaking to reporters at the White House, made his comments after recently calling off military actions against Iran to retaliate for the downing of a US military drone.
Earlier, he said his country does not want war but warned Iran it would face “obliteration” if conflict broke out.
Speaking to NBC on Friday, he said the US was open to talks but would not allow Iran to develop nuclear weapons.
He also expanded on his last-minute decision to call off strikes planned in response to the shooting down of a US unmanned drone this week, saying he had been told 150 Iranians would be killed.
This came as a minister from Britain’s Foreign Office was due to travel to Iran on Sunday for talks with senior Iranian government officials amid the escalating tensions.
Minister of State for the Middle East Andrew Murrison will call for an “urgent de-escalation” of the crisis and raise British concerns “about Iran’s regional conduct and its threat to cease complying with the nuclear deal to which the UK remains fully committed,” a department statement said.
“At this time of increased regional tensions and at a crucial period for the future of the nuclear deal, this visit is an opportunity for further open, frank and constructive engagement with the government of Iran,” it added.
Meanwhile, Iran said on Saturday it would respond firmly to any US threat against it, the semi-official Tasnim news agency reported, amid escalating tension between Tehran and Washington over the shooting down of an unmanned US drone by the Islamic Republic.
“Regardless of any decision they (US officials) make... we will not allow any of Iran’s borders to be violated. Iran will firmly confront any aggression or threat by America,” foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi told Tasnim.
Earlier, Saudi Vice Minister of Defence Prince Khalid Bin Salman said he met with Brian Hook, the US special representative to Iran, to “explore the latest efforts to counter hostile Iranian acts and continuous escalation that threaten the region’s security and stability”.
In a series of posts on Twitter, the minister affirmed Saudi Arabia’s support for the US “maximum pressure campaign on Iran,” which is cited as a result of “continuing Iranian hostility and terrorism”.
The Saudi minister also said in the tweets he discussed with Hook the “dangerous” role the Iranian regime plays in Yemen. In other tweets earlier this month, the minister said that for 40 years, the Iranian regime has been “spreading chaos, death and destruction, by sponsoring and financing terrorist organizations including Al Houthis”.
Also, a senior Arab diplomat said the sharply increased tensions would further harm the crisis-hit Middle East region.
“De-escalation is very important because tempers are flaring ... It’s very important we avoid confrontation right now,” the senior diplomat told Reuters on condition of anonymity.