April 25, 2020 / 10:08 AM / a month ago

Iran's president says Tehran watches U.S. closely, but won't start conflict

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks during the cabinet meeting, as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, in Tehran, Iran, April 1, 2020. Official Presidential Website/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES

DUBAI (Reuters) - Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Saturday that Tehran was closely following U.S. activities, but would never initiate a conflict in the region.

Rouhani’s comments, which come at a time of rising tension between Washington and Tehran, were made during a telephone call to Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, Iranian state media reported.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran follows America’s activities and movements closely, but it will never be the one that starts conflict and tension in the region,” Rouhani was quoted as saying during the call, held due to the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Wednesday he had instructed the U.S. Navy to fire on any Iranian ships that harass it at sea.

Earlier this month, the U.S. military said 11 Revolutionary Guards naval vessels came close to U.S. Navy and Coast Guard ships in the Gulf, calling the moves “dangerous and provocative”.

Tehran blamed its long-time adversary for the incident.

Reporting by Dubai Newsroom; Editing by Helen Popper

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