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US military chief warns Iran against ‘provocation’

Gen. Frank McKenzie (U.S. Department of Defense/Released)

The US military chief in the Middle East has warned Iran against any provocation amid diplomatic maneuvers over Tehran’s nuclear program.

“I would think this would be a good time for everybody to behave soberly and cautiously, and see what happens,” Gen. Frank McKenzie said on a visit to Oman.

The four-star general, head of US Central Command (Centcom), did not rule out that Tehran would try to avenge Iranian warlord Qasem Soleimani, who was killed in a US drone strike in Baghdad in January 2020.

“I think there’s still a risk that they might entertain that as a course of action,” he said.

He urged Iran not to undertake any “nefarious activities” if it wanted to rebuild trust.

“I think they would want to be recognized as a responsible member of the family of nations and a stable member in the region,”

he said.

After he spoke, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Tehran would enrich uranium up to any purity the country needed, and would never yield to US pressure over its nuclear work.

“Iran’s uranium enrichment level will not be limited to 20 percent. We will increase it to whatever level the country needs. We may increase it to 60 percent,” he said.

Khamenei claimed Tehran had never sought a nuclear weapon but if it wanted to, “no one could stop us from acquiring it.”

The supreme leader spoke after Iranian officials reached a compromise agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency over access for UN inspectors to Iran’s nuclear facilities.

US President Joe Biden, European powers and Tehran are trying to revive Iran’s 2015 nuclear agreement, which collapsed when Donald Trump withdrew from it in 2018.

Since then the US has reimposed sanctions that were eased under the deal, while Iran has incrementally breached its obligations. Each side insists that the other should return to compliance first.

Iran threatened to restrict IAEA inspections of its nuclear facilities from Feb. 23 unless the US lifted sanctions, but IAEA chief Rafael Grossi held last-ditch talks in Tehran at which the two sides reached a technical agreement for up to three months.

Grossi said that under the temporary deal there was less access, but the IAEA would be able to “retain the necessary degree of monitoring and verification work.”


(c) 2021 the Arab News

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