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US interventionist presence in region has to end as soon as possible: Iran defense chief

Iranian Defense Minister Brigadier General Amir Hatami says Washington's "interventionist presence" in the region has to end as soon as possible for a de-escalation to take place after recent US provocations.

“Achieving de-escalation, stabilization and security in the region requires the immediate end of Washington’s occupation and interventionist presence,” Hatami said in a phone call with his Japanese counterpart Taro Kono on Thursday.

The talks between the two defense chiefs came after Tokyo announced last month that its sought to send a warship and a number of patrol aircraft to the Middle East region in order to ensure security amid heightening tensions.

Tokyo receives nearly 90 percent of its oil imports from the Middle East.  

Speaking on Thursday, Hatami said “those who seek to assist in de-escalation and achieving regional stability have to remind the Americans, which are a source of regional insecurity, to leave the region.”

The Iranian defense chief added that Iran, being the largest country with an access to the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman, has always fulfilled its role in ensuring security in regional waterways.

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Hatami’s call for the expulsion of US forces comes a week after Washington assassinated the Middle East’s most prominent anti-terror commander Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani in Iraq.

Speaking to his Japanese counterpart, Hatami called on independent countries to condemn Washington’s “state terrorism”.

He described Soleimani’s assassination as an unprecedented and major crime where a foreign government has acted to kill a senior Iranian military officer in another country.

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Speaking on his part, Kono stressed that Japan’s military deployment in the region seeks to ensure regional peace and that it does not intend to take part in a so-called US-led Persian Gulf coalition, which commenced its operations last November.

According to Japan’s public broadcaster NHK, Kono also gave out orders for the Japanese military deployments to begin on Friday.

Earlier last year, Washington called for the formation of the maritime coalition in response to a series of mysterious explosions targeting vessels in the Persian Gulf and the Sea of Oman.

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US officials were quick to blame Iran for the incidents without providing conclusive evidence.

Iran has roundly rejected the accusations, describing the attacks as being part of “false flag operations” seeking to pressure Iran.

Following the tensions, Japan, which has sought to maintain positive ties with both Tehran and Washington, has stressed that it has opted to form its own maritime operation rather than join the US-led mission.

According to The Japan Times, the Japanese operation will operate in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden east of Saudi Arabia and will exclude the Strait of Hormuz and the Persian Gulf due to Iran’s concerns regarding the presence of the US-led initiative.

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