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Iran's Zarif Denounces US Strikes On Iran-Backed Militia In Iraq And Syria

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov attend a news conference following their meeting in Moscow, December 30, 2019

In a meeting with his Russian counterpart in Moscow on Monday, Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad-Javad Zarif condemned U.S. airstrikes against a pro-Iran group in Iraq which killed at least 25 fighters. Tehran has called the attacks “a clear example of terrorism".

The attacks on Sunday night saw U.S. planes hit several bases belonging to the Hezbollah brigades, one of the most radical factions of Hashed al-Sha'abi, an Iran-backed Iraqi paramilitary coalition.

The strikes "killed 25 and wounded 51, including commanders and fighters, and the toll could yet rise," according to the Hashed, which holds major sway in Iraq.

The operation was a retaliation for a series of rocket attacks since late October against U.S. interests in Iraq, including a barrage of more than 30 fired on Friday against an Iraqi base in Kirkuk, which killed a U.S. civilian contractor.

U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Monday described the "defensive attacks" against the pro-Iran Hezbollah brigades group in Iraq as "successful". Esper did not rule out further military action against Iran-backed militia groups in Iraq.

“The United States is shedding blood and causing destruction against the people of Iraq and Syria thousands of miles away from its own borders in the name of defending itself,” Zarif said in his meeting with Lavrov and added: "Unlike the others who fuel insecurity and belligerence, Iran and Russia seek stability and security in the region and the world."

The Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov also alleged that western countries are "purposefully trying to inflame the situation" in the region. Referring to Hormuz Peace Endeavor (HOPE) put forth by the Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and the Collective Security Concept initiative, drawn up by Moscow, Zarif said that the proposals made by Iran and Russia to defuse regional tensions have "very much in common”.

In a statement on Monday, Iran's foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi condemned the attacks and said: “The U.S. has demonstrated its decisive support for terrorism and disregard for the independence and sovereignty of nations by launching these attacks, and it must accept the responsibility for the consequences of such illegal measure”.

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