x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Iran seeks Obama explanation over US drone

Iran has no intention of returning the downed US drone unless the president, Barack Obama, explains why it invaded Iranian air space, the Iranian foreign undersecretary said in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday night.

ABU DHABI // Iran has no intention of returning the downed US drone unless the president, Barack Obama, explained why it invaded Iranian air space, the Iranian foreign undersecretary said in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday night.

Speakingon the second stop on his tour of the Gulf, Dr Hossain Amirabdullahian faced questions about a range of recent diplomatic entanglements involving Iran.

The US aircraft came down 250 miles inside the Iranian border.

"Mr Obama must know that he first needs to explain why the aircraft came down this close into Iranian air space," Dr Amirabdullahian said. "This completely violated all treaties. Mr Obama, instead of looking to get the spy aircraft back, needs to explain in a clear matter why the plane was there in the first place."

Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, said on Monday that the US did not expect Iran to comply with its requests for the aircraft's return. "But we are dealing with all of these provocations and concerning actions taken by Iran in close concert with our closest allies and partners, starting with the UK," she said. It was reported that America fears Iran might send the drone to China to be replicated.

Dr Amirabdullahian said bringing it down had proved the advancement of Iranian intelligence, despite American reports that the aircraft had simply crashed.

On concerns about Iranian interference in the Gulf, he insisted Iran had "never" been a threat to neighbouring countries, "but any threat from outside the region to the region needs to be responded to quickly".

"Our strategy is to maintain security and stability in the region."

Dr Amirabdullahian denied Iran had any part in the plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the US in September. "The blame on Iran has no basis to it ... it was truly a scenario from a Hollywood movie."

He said the US was more concerned with propagating its story in the media, rather than presenting any evidence for it. "If America has any evidence they needed to have taken lawful measures before making a media propaganda. These are parts of strategies taken against Iran."

He said, too, that Iran's nuclear programme was no threat to its neighbours, accusing the media of turning what was peaceful into something political.

"Intellectuals would know very well that this programme has only peaceful reasons, and no other.

"This has no threat. There is no need for any country in the region to worry. And for the security of the region we have also taken extra precautions to ensure their safety."

Countries in the region have been interested in the programme and have benefited from it, he said.

He denied that Iran had played any part in inciting this year's protests in Bahrain, adding that the report of an impartial committee in Bahrain had confirmed this.

Rumours about Iranian intervention were only circulated to make others scared of Iran. "And I blame some foreign parties, who have particular interest," he said.

But he reiterated Iran's opposition to the GCC military intervention in Bahrain, saying it had only complicated matters. "We believe that the solution is dialogue," he said.

He said that while Syria was a different case, its government needed to listen to its people. "There are armed groups attacking the Syrian military - these armed groups are working with foreign countries.

"And some parties, especially Israel, are happy with the escalation of events in Syria."

He and Dr Anwar Gargash, the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, had discussed all the Arab Spring uprisings in detail, he said.

On Israel, he said that while the country was no threat to Iran - as it had "no way to face us" - Iran was "completely prepared to answer back to any threats from Israel".

He said Tehran's relationship with Abu Dhabi was "excellent, runs deep, and strong".

"As you know there are a lot of similarities between the two countries - geographically, in Islam, and culture. And in many fields the relationship with the UAE has developed, and will continue."

All countries in the region needed to co-operate for stability and security, he said. "Any foreign interference in these issues will make the problem more complex and will soak the mud."

The UAE state news agency Wam reported that during Dr Amirabdullahian's meeting with Dr Gargash, they both stressed the importance of mutual relations and prioritised stability in the light of regional turmoil.