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Iran, US heat up war of words despite virus pandemic

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Iran said Thursday it “only acts in self-defence” after President Donald Trump warned it against attacks on US troops in Iraq, as a new war of words heated up despite the coronavirus pandemic.

Tensions between the arch-foes flared in Iraq where the United States deployed Patriot air defence missiles prompting neighbouring Iran to warn of consequences and demand a US withdrawal.

Both countries have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has claimed more than 5,000 lives in the United States and more than 3,000 in Iran.

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted that “unlike the US — which surreptitiously lies, cheats & assassinates — Iran only acts in self-defense”.

“Don’t be misled by usual warmongers, AGAIN,” he said, addressing US President Donald Trump.

“Iran starts no wars but teaches lessons to those who do,” he added.

Trump warned Iran on Wednesday that it would pay a “heavy price” in the event of further attacks on US troops.

He tweeted that “upon information and belief, Iran or its proxies are planning a sneak attack on U.S. troops and/or assets in Iraq”.

In response, Zarif tweeted that “Iran has FRIENDS: No one can have MILLIONS of ‘proxies'”

Iran responded angrily to the US Patriot deployment warning that Washington risked leading the Middle East to disaster in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

Its armed forces chief of staff said the recent attacks against US bases in Iraq are the “natural reaction” of Iraqi people towards Washington’s continuing military presence.

The attacks “have nothing to do with our country. The Americans sometimes attribute such things to us, which is projecting the blame,” Iran’s ISNA news agency quoted Major General Mohammad Bagheri as saying.

“Iran has no involvement in these actions and no intention to attack foreign forces,” he said, underlining that Iran would still respond strongly to any aggression.

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