Tuesday, March 19, 2019
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Supreme leader: Iran won't be told what to do in the Middle East

Iran will not ask for permission from Washington to be active in the Middle East, Ayatollah Khamenei says.

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei

Iran will not negotiate with the West over its presence in the Middle East, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said, days after France's visiting foreign minister raised Tehran's role in regional conflicts.

"European countries come [to Tehran] and say we want to negotiate with Iran over its presence in the region. It is none of your business. It is our region. Why are you here?" Khamenei was quoted as saying by his official website on Thursday.

Khamenei, a Shia cleric who is Iran's ultimate authority on all major matters of state, said the Islamic Republic would only negotiate on that issue with other states in the region.

Iran's Revolutionary Guards have sent weapons and thousands of soldiers to Syria to prop up President Bashar al-Assad in the country's seven-year civil war.

Khamenei described the presence of US military forces in various regions of the world as "malicious and seditious", and said Iran would not ask for permission from Washington to be active in the Middle East.

"We will negotiate with America when we want to be present in America," he said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu discussed Iran's military activities in the region with Trump in Washington this week.

Iran has also been aiding the Shia-led government of Iraq in its fight against Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

Iranian Defence Minister Amir Hatami was quoted as saying by Tasnim news agency that Tehran was also ready to offer "military advisory and security" help to Afghanistan in that country's fight against "terrorism" - an allusion to ISIL and Taliban fighters.

President Hassan Rouhani said on Wednesday that Iran's military might posed no threat to any country in the region.

"Our weapons are meant to promote peace, strengthen stability and security, and to prevent others from invading our country. No one should be concerned about Iran's weapons and missiles," Rouhani said.

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