FILE - Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif gestures during a press conference in Tehran, Feb. 13, 2019.
FILE - Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif gestures during a press conference in Tehran, Feb. 13, 2019.

DUBAI - Iran's top diplomat on Saturday dismissed the possibility of war erupting in the region, saying Tehran did not want a conflict and that no country had the "illusion it can confront Iran," the state news agency IRNA reported.

Tensions between Washington and Tehran have increased in recent days, raising concerns about a potential U.S.-Iran conflict. Earlier this week the United States pulled some diplomatic staff from its Baghdad embassy following attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf.

"There will be no war because neither do we want a war, nor has anyone the idea or illusion it can confront Iran in the region," Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told IRNA before
ending a visit to Beijing.

FILE - President Donald Trump listens to a question from a member of the media on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, May 14, 2019.
'I Hope Not,' Trump Says on Possibility of War With Iran
Michael Bowman and Shahla Arasteh contributed to this report.President Donald Trump says he hopes the U.S. is not going to war with Iran amid rising tensions in the Middle East, as an Iran diplomat downplayed such prospects."I hope not," Trump said when asked about the possibility of a conflict with Tehran as he began talks with Swiss President Ueli Maurer.  The U.S. and Iran do not have diplomatic ties but Switzerland represents U.S.

President Donald Trump has bolstered economic sanctions and built up U.S. military presence in the region, accusing Iran of threats to U.S. troops and interests. Tehran has described those
steps as "psychological warfare" and a "political game."

"The fact is that Trump has officially said and reiterated again that he does not want a war, but people around him are pushing for war on the pretext that they want to make America
stronger against Iran," Zarif said.

He told Reuters last month that Trump could be lured into a conflict by the likes of U.S. national security adviser John Bolton, an ardent Iran hawk.

Regional tensions

In a sign of the heightened tension across the region, ExxonMobil evacuated foreign staff from an oilfield in neighboring Iraq after days of saber rattling between Washington and Tehran.

South Oil Company chief Ihsan Abdul Jabbar speaks during an interview with Reuters in Basra, May 18, 2019.
Exxon Evacuates Foreign Workers From Iraqi Oil Field
ExxonMobil has evacuated its foreign workers from an oil field in the southern Iraqi province of Basra amid heightened tensions in the Middle East. A senior Iraqi official and three other sources told Reuters the employees were evacuated on Friday and early Saturday to Dubai or to a housing complex in Basra province.

Elsewhere in the Gulf, Bahrain warned its citizens against traveling to Iraq or Iran due to "unstable conditions." In Washington, officials urged U.S. commercial airliners flying over the waters of the Gulf and the Gulf of Oman to exercise caution.

A Norwegian insurers' report seen by Reuters said Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards were "highly likely" to have facilitated the attacks last Sunday on four tankers including two Saudi ships off Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates.

In Tehran, the commander of the Revolutionary Guards named a new head of the force's intelligence unit on Saturday, the Fars news agency reported.

Iranian officials have denied involvement in the tanker attacks, saying Tehran's enemies carried them out to lay the groundwork for war against Iran.

U.S. officials, however, are concerned that Tehran may have passed naval combat expertise onto proxy forces in the region. Following the re-imposition of U.S. sanctions, a senior
Iranian maritime official said Iran had adopted new tactics and new destinations in shipping its oil exports.

Iranian crude oil exports have fallen in May to 500,000 barrels per day or lower, according to tanker data and industry sources, after the United States tightened the screws on Iran's
main source of income.


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