Iran Rejects Trump's Warning; Foreign Minister Slams "Saudis Involvement In 94% Of Terrorist Attacks In The World"
The US president warned that Iran would face ‘new and serious consequences’ if the detained Americans were not released.
But now, as MiddleEastEye reports, Iran demanded on Saturday that the United States release Iranians detained there, a day after US President Donald Trump called on the Islamic Republic to release three US citizens.
“America should quickly release Iranian prisoners in the country,”foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi said, according to the Iranian Students’ News Agency (ISNA).
On Friday, Trump urged Tehran to return Robert Levinson, an American former law enforcement officer who disappeared in Iran more than a decade ago, and to release businessman Siamak Namazi and his father, Baquer, both jailed on espionage charges.
Trump warned that Iran would face “new and serious consequences” if the three men were not released.
“The judiciary, courts and judges in Iran are completely independent, as in any other country,” Ghasemi said in a statement.
“Any interventionist and threatening statement by American officials and institutions has no effect on the will and determination of the country’s judicial system to try and punish criminals and violators of the country’s laws and national security.”
The statement capped a week of US rhetoric against Tehran, which announced last Sunday that another US citizen, Xiyue Wang, a graduate student from Princeton University, had been sentenced to 10 years in jail on spying charges.
On Tuesday, Washington slapped new economic sanctions on Iran over its ballistic missile programme and said Tehran’s “malign activities” in the Middle East undercut any “positive contributions” coming from the 2015 nuclear accord.
Last October, an Iranian court sentenced 46-year-old Siamak Namazi and his father, Baquer Namazi, 80, to 10 years in prison on charges of spying and cooperating with the US.
Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps detained Siamak in October 2015 while he was visiting his family in Tehran, and Baquer, a former Iranian provincial governor and ex-UNICEF official, in February last year, family members said.
Levinson, a former agent for the Federal Bureau of Investigation and for the Drug Enforcement Administration, disappeared in Iran in 2007. The US government has a $5m reward for information leading to his safe return.
Levinson left Iran years ago and the Islamic Republic has no information about his whereabouts, Ghasemi said on Saturday.
“The statements of the White House, as usual, are an example of interference in Iran’s internal affairs and the demands are unacceptable and rejected,” Ghasemi said, according to ISNA.
"We don’t see the situation in our region as a winning or losing battle. It’s a situation where the initial U.S. invasion of Iraq has led everybody to lose.
Because we believe that the situation in today’s world is so interconnected that we cannot have winners and losers; we either win together or lose together,."
Zarif also said that Shias, Sunnis and Kurds are all important segment of Iraqi society with whom Iran needs to have relations.
“Iran has rushed to the aid of the Iraqis, not just the Shias, but everybody. For us, the Shias, the Sunnis, the Kurds—all of them are an important segment of Iraqi society with whom we need to have relations.”
Citing an example of Iran’s help to Iraqis when Daesh invaded Iraq in 2014, the foreign minister said, “We went to the support of the Kurds: when they had been invaded by ISIS, we were the first to go to Erbil to secure it and to rescue it, basically, from a Daesh occupation.”
He added there are certain countries in the Middle East who have been “consistently” supporting terrorism.
“You have countries in the region who have consistently supported extremists…
Some countries consistently supported the wrong groups - these are the same countries from whose nationals, almost 94 percent of those engaged in acts of terror, came - so we are talking about a consistent record on their side and a consistent record on the Iranian side.”
He added that Iran does not seek to exclude Saudi Arabia from the security calculus of the Middle East region.
“We believe that Saudi Arabia is an important part of that security, as we believe that other countries in the region should be an important part of that security understanding.”