Iraqi leaders warn of war as Iranian Foreign Minister visits

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif visits neighboring Iraq amid his country's tensions with the US.

Elad Benari ,

Mohammad Javad Zarif and Mohamed Ali Alhakim
Mohammad Javad Zarif and Mohamed Ali Alhakim

Iraqi leaders on Sunday warned of the risks of war during a visit by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, AFP reported.

Zarif's visit to neighboring Iraq follows a decision by the US to deploy 1,500 additional troops to the Middle East, leading to increased tensions between Washington and Tehran.

"We are currently repelling all the efforts of war against Iran, whether economic or military," Zarif said at a joint news conference with his Iraqi counterpart Mohammed Ali al-Hakim.

"We will face them with strength and we will resist," he added.

For his part, Hakim said, "We stand by our neighbor Iran, and economic sanctions are unnecessary and cause great suffering to the Iranian people."

Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi warned of the "danger of a war" during a meeting with Zarif on Saturday night, his office said, according to AFP.

Abdel Mahdi pleaded for the "stability of the region and the upholding of the nuclear deal," it said, referring to the 2015 agreement between Tehran and major powers.

Iraqi President Barham Saleh discussed with Zarif "the need to prevent all war or escalation," his office said.

US President Donald Trump announced on Friday that the US will bolster its military presence in the Middle East with an additional 1,500 troops which will have a "mostly protective" role.

While Trump has urged Iran’s leaders to talk with him about giving up their nuclear program, he has also made clear he could not rule out a military confrontation with the Islamic Republic.

Last week, Trump said that Iran would be met with "great force" if it attempted anything against US interests in the Middle East, though he stressed he was willing to have talks with Iran "when they're ready."

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, meanwhile, stressed that his country will not surrender to US pressure and will not abandon its goals even if it is bombed.