NEW YORK (AP) – Iran’s president denied on Monday that his country had sent drones to Russia for use in the war in Ukraine, even as the United States accused Iran of not only providing the weapons but of helping Russia plant construction to manufacture.
“We are against the war in Ukraine,” said President Ebrahim Raisi as he met with media executives on the sidelines of the world’s main global conference, the meeting of high-level leaders at the United Nations General Assembly.
The Iranian leader spoke just hours after five Americans held in Iranian custody arrived in Qatar, release in a deal which saw President Joe Biden agree to unlock nearly $6 billion in frozen Iranian assets.
Known as a hard liner, Raisi apparently tried to strike a diplomatic tone. He repeated offers to mediate the Russia-Ukraine war despite being one of the Kremlin’s strongest supporters. And he suggested that the newly concluded agreement with the United States which led to a prisoner swap and the release of assets could “help build trust” between the long-time enemies.
Raisi acknowledged that Iran and Russia have long had strong ties, including defense cooperation. But he denied sending arms to Moscow since the war began. “If they have a document that is Iranian he gave weapons or drones to the Russians after the war,” he said, then they should produce it.
Iranian officials have made a series of contradictory comments about the drones. US and European officials say the sheer number of Iranian drones being used in the war in Ukraine shows that the flow of such weapons has not only continued but intensified after the wars. start
Despite his comments about trust, Raisi’s tone towards the United States was not all conciliatory; he had harsh words at other times.
Raisi said his country “seeks good relations with all neighboring countries” in the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
“We believe that if the Americans stop interfering in the countries of the Persian Gulf and other regions of the world, and mind their own business… that the situation of the countries and their relations will improve,” said Raisi.
The United Arab Emirates first sought diplomatic re-engagement with Tehran after attacks on ships off its coasts attributed to Iran. Saudi Arabia, with Chinese mediation, reached a détente in March to re-establish diplomatic relations after years of tensions, including over the kingdom’s war on Yemen, Riyadh’s opposition to Syrian President Bashar Assad, and fears over Iran’s nuclear program.
Raisi warned other countries in the region not to get too close to US ally Israel, saying: “Normalizing relations with the Zionist regime does not create security.”
Iran’s leader was dismissive of Western criticism of his country’s treatment of women, its crackdown on dissent and its nuclear programme, including protests that began just over a year ago over the death of Mahsa Amini, 22 years in custody the police last year. – an elderly Kurdish-Iranian woman arrested for allegedly violating Iran’s mandatory headscarf law. As a prosecutor, Raisi took part in the 1988 mass executions that killed around 5,000 dissidents in Iran.
Raisi has tried, without evidence, to portray the popular demonstrations throughout the country as a Western conspiracy.
“The issue(s) of women, hijab, human rights and the nuclear issue,” he said, “are all an excuse by the Americans and Westerners to harm the Islamic republic as an independent country.”