Putin says use of US force against Iran would be 'disaster'

PARIS: President Emmanuel Macron sent his top diplomatic adviser to Iran this week as part of European efforts to defuse tensions between Tehran and Washington, the French presidency said yesterday. The adviser, Emmanuel Bonne, held "high-level meetings" Wednesday in Tehran, "with the aim of contributing to the deescalation of tensions in the region", Macron's office said.

The presidency refused to say whom Bonne met, adding only that he left Tehran on Wednesday evening. The strains between Washington and Tehran increased Thursday with Iran's announcement that it had shot down a US "spy drone" that violated Iranian airspace near the Strait of Hormuz.

In this image released by the US Air Force, Staff Sgt. Seth Thurber checks panels of a RQ- 4 Global Hawk unmanned surveillance drone during a preflight inspection, at Beale Air Force Base, California. — AFP

The United States has yet to respond. The incident marks the latest escalation in tensions following last week's attacks on two oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz, which the United States blamed on Iran.
Tehran has denied any involvement. Tensions between the longtime foes, who have had no relations since the hostage crisis that followed the 1979 Islamic revolution, have increased sharply since US President Donald Trump last year abandoned a landmark 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran and reimposed sanctions.

Macron, who is travelling to a G20 summit in the Japanese city of Osaka on June 28-29, will "have contact with the main players" in the standoff, his office said. Before that he will pay an official visit to Japan on June 26-27, during which he will hold talks with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who recently travelled to Iran to try mediate in the crisis.

Abe met with Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who categorically refused to hold talks with Trump. The EU is under pressure from Tehran to try salvage the 2015 deal, with Iran threatening to breach its nuclear enrichment limits. On Tuesday, Macron urged Tehran to be "patient and responsible".
Putin warning

Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin yesterday said any use of force by the US against Iran would lead to disaster as tensions escalate between Washington and Tehran. "The US says it does not rule out the use of force… This would be a disaster for the region," Putin said during an annual televised phone-in with screened questions posed by Russian viewers.

"It would lead to a surge in violence and an increase in the number of refugees," he said, adding that the consequences of intervention would be "difficult to calculate".

Moscow has backed Tehran in its standoff with the United States since Washington pulled out of an international 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran last year. Putin repeated Russia's insistence that sanctions against Iran are "unreasonable". The comment comes at a time of growing antagonism between Iran and the US following two waves of still unexplained attacks on Gulf shipping, which Washington has blamed on Tehran.

Iran has denied any involvement and hinted that the US might have orchestrated them itself to provide a pretext for the use of force against the Islamic republic.

Yestyerday, tensions also heightened after the Pentagon confirmed that Iranian forces had shot down a US naval surveillance drone. The US has insisted the aircraft was in international air space but Iran has said the drone had violated Iranian airspace. - Agencies