June 23, 2019 / 6:57 AM / 6 months ago

UPDATE 1-Any conflict in region could spread - Iran general

(Adds Israeli minister comments from paragraph 5)

DUBAI, June 23 (Reuters) - Any conflict in the Gulf region may spread uncontrollably, a senior Iranian military commander was cited as saying on Sunday by the semi-official news agency Fars.

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Friday he aborted a military strike to retaliate for Iran’s downing of a drone because it could have killed 150 people, and signaled he was open to talks with Tehran.

Iran said on Saturday it would respond firmly to any threat against it.

“If a conflict breaks out in the region, no country would be able to manage its scope and timing,” Major General Gholamali Rashid said, according to Fars.

“The American government must act responsibly to protect the lives of American troops by avoiding misconduct in the region.”

U.S. ally Israel, which has itself long threatened strikes against Iran’s disputed nuclear programme, signalled understanding for Trump’s stance given his campaign of diplomatic pressure on Tehran.

“With all due respect to the fact that 150 Iranians were spared a cruel fate, the real major thing is the American policy (which) absolutely serves the interests of the world and of Israel in preventing Iran from getting nuclear weaponry,” Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi told Israel Radio.

Trump said on Saturday he would impose fresh sanctions on Iran but that he wanted to make a deal to bolster its flagging economy, an apparent move to defuse tensions.

Hanegbi predicted, however, that Washington could still hit out at the Iranians if provoked in the Gulf.

“I learned that - if you study theatre - a pistol that is brought out in the First Act will apparently be fired in the Third Act (and) we are getting close to the third,” he said. (Reporting by Dubai and Jerusalem newsrooms Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky/Keith Weir)

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