Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 19 September 2019

Iran's Supreme Leader tells Japan's Abe he has no reply to message from Trump

The Japanese prime minister met Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to ease tensions in the region

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei meets with Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Tehran, Iran June 13, 2019. Official Khamenei website via REUTERS 
Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei meets with Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Tehran, Iran June 13, 2019. Official Khamenei website via REUTERS 

Iran will not repeat its "bitter experience" of negotiating with the United States, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei told Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Tehran on Thursday.

Mr Abe was carrying a message to Iranian leaders from US President Donald Trump.

https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/1139236468365434880

"I do not see Trump worthy of any message exchange, and I do not have any reply for him now or in future," Fars news agency quoted Ayatollah Khamenei as saying.

Ayatollah Khamenei also said Trump's promise not to seek regime change in Iran was "a lie", adding that he did not believe Washington's offer of "honest negotiations" with Tehran.

Mr Abe met with Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on the second and final day of his visit in a high stakes diplomatic visit to the Middle Eastern country.

Mr Abe’s visit – where he has sought to ease tensions in the Middle East – makes him the first Japanese leader to visit Iran since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

The high level visit appears to be an effort to de-escalate a crisis, as Tehran is poised to break the 2015 nuclear deal it struck with world powers, an agreement that US President Donald Trump withdrew from last year.

Shortly after the Japanese leader’s plane landed at Tehran's Mehrabad International Airport on Wednesday, he went to meet Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. Mr Abe was greeted by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

After talks with President Hassan Rouhani, Mr Abe warned that any “accidental conflict” that could be sparked amid the heightened US-Iran tensions must be avoided.

“There is a need to avoid a military conflict at any cost,” he told reporters.

Although he didn't name America specifically, Mr Abe added: “While this will require patient efforts, I believe such efforts must be carried through for the sake of peace in the Middle East and the world.”

President Rouhani welcomed Mr Abe’s call for both sides to work together to relieve tensions, saying “positive developments are underway” in his address.

The Japanese leader told reporters that he respected Mr Khamenei for issuing fatwas on numerous occasions denouncing weapons of mass destruction as going against teachings of Islam.

The message came hours after the Iran-backed Houthi rebels attacked a Saudi Arabian airport, wounding 26 people.

Mr Abe’s visit also coincides with reports of an oil tanker explosion in the Gulf of Oman early on Thursday. The US navy said it was assisting two oil tankers that were targeted in the “reported attack” today.

Both tankers were evacuated after the incident and the crew are safe, sources told Reuters.

Iran's navy rescued 44 crew members from two oil tankers which caught fire after an "accident" in the Sea of Oman on Thursday, official news agency IRNA reported.

Thursday's maritime alerts come after what the US has described as Iranian attacks on four oil tankers nearby, off the coast of the Emirati port of Fujairah in May. Iran denies any involvement.

Updated: June 14, 2019 10:54 AM

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