New Delhi, Jan 8 (PTI) Iran will welcome any peace initiative by India to de-escalate tensions with the US following the killing of Iranian military commander Qasem Soleimani, the Iranian envoy here said on Wednesday while asserting that his country wants peace not war.
Iran's Ambassador to India Ali Chegeni also expressed the hope there would be no further escalation in hostilities between his country and the US.
The ambassador's comments came hours after Iran launched over a dozen ballistic missiles targeting at least two bases where US military and coalition forces' are stationed in Iraq. Tehran said it was a 'slap in the face' of America.
'India usually plays a very good role in (maintaining) peace in the world. India belongs to this region. We welcome all initiatives from all countries, especially India as a good friend for us, to not allow escalation (of tensions),' Chegeni told reporters after a condolence meeting for Soleimani at the Iranian Embassy here.
'We are not for war, we are looking for peace and prosperity for everybody in this region. We welcome any Indian initiative or any project that can help peace and prosperity in this world,' he said in response to a question on whether India could play a role in de-escalation of tensions.
The Iranian Embassy later asserted that the Ambassador's remarks must in no way be interpreted as consideration of any intermediary role between Iran and a third country.
Maj Gen Soleimani, 62, the head of Iran''s elite al-Quds force and architect of its regional security apparatus, was killed when a US drone fired missiles into a convoy that was leaving the Baghdad International Airport early on Friday. The strike also killed the deputy chief of Iraq''s powerful Hashed al-Shaabi paramilitary force.
On the Iranian attack on US targets in Iraq, Chegeni told reporters that his country retaliated under its right to defend.
Amid spiralling US-Iran tensions over the killing of Soleimani, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Sunday had a conversation with his Iranian counterpart Javad Zarif and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, voicing India's concerns over the escalation of tensions.
Meanwhile, sources said Zarif is expected to visit India to attend the Raisina Dialogue next week.
During his visit, Zarif will also hold talks with Jaishankar, the sources said.
India has reached out to several stakeholders in the region over the security situation prevailing in the Middle East.
Jaishankar has also separately spoken with Omani Foreign Minister Yusuf Alawi, UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, as well his Jordanian and Qatari counterparts Ayman Safadi and Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani respectively, on the tense situation in the region.
Noting that India is a 'good friend', Chegeni said, 'My minister (Javad Zarif) talked to Dr Jaishankar, they had a very good discussion. Recently we had the joint economic commission in Tehran...We see a very good future for the relationship. We have no problem with India.' He said Iran and India can jointly work for peace in the world.
Asked if Indian officials have reached out to the Embassy with a condolence message, the Iranian envoy said the embassy had opened a condolence book for two days and he expects Indian officials to come but it is 'up to the Indian side'.
'Usually we have good relations and sympathy between the two countries,' he said.
The Iran Embassy here has been seeing a steady stream of envoys coming and expressing condolences on the death of Soliemani.
Concerns have mounted across the globe over fast-deteriorating diplomatic ties between the US and Iran, and the spiralling tensions in the Gulf after Soleiman was killed. Soleimani's killing was the most dramatic escalation yet in spiralling tensions between Iran and the US.
Talking about the US drone strike that killed Soleimani, Chegeni said, 'He was in a third country. So this is very important for the world to not allow such an inhuman, illegal act which is against international rights.' 'He (Soleimani) was the one who removed the threat of ISIS from the world. Why you should kill him. That means you are supporting terrorists. If Gen Soleimani didn't act against ISIS, what would have happened to India, to Europe, and to all of the world because ISIS was really anti-human,' he said.
The world owes a debt to 'anti-terrorist hero' Soleimani, he said.
'That is why my country today officially retaliated based on the legitimate rights we have....We are not for war. We are not for escalation, but defending is our right,' Chegeni said.
'Everyone has the right to defence, even animals and trees...,' he asserted.
'This is not revenge, this was the right of our people. All the Iranian people asked for retaliation, early morning at the same time our national hero was attacked... we attacked the military bases,' he said. PTI ASK MPB MIN ZMN HMB