North Korea’s Kim urges ‘positive and offensive’ security measures ahead of nuclear talks deadline

By Hyonhee Shin

SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korean leader Kim Jong Un called for “positive and offensive measures” to ensure the country’s security before a year-end deadline he has set for denuclearization talks with the United States, state media KCNA said on Monday.

Kim convened a weekend meeting of top Workers’ Party officials to discuss policy matters amid rising tension over his deadline for Washington to soften its stance in stalled negotiations aimed at dismantling Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs.

At a Sunday session, Kim suggested action in the areas of foreign affairs, the munitions industry and armed forces, stressing the need to take “positive and offensive measures for fully ensuring the sovereignty and security of the country,” KCNA said, without elaborating.

The meeting was the largest plenary session of the party’s 7th Central Committee since its first gathering in 2013 under Kim, according to Seoul’s Unification Ministry handling inter-Korean affairs.

The key policymaking organ drew several hundred attendees, state television showed on Monday. The committee also met in 2018 and in April but on a much smaller scale.

“By ‘positive and offensive measures,’ they might mean highly provocative action against the United States and also South Korea,” said Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean studies in Seoul.

KCNA said the meeting was still under way. It was the first time the gathering had lasted more than one day since Kim took power in late 2011, ministry spokesman Lee Sang-min told a regular briefing.

The United States was watching the end-of-year meeting closely and hoped North Korea would choose peace over confrontation, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Monday.

“We still maintain our view that we can find a path forward to convince the leadership in North Korea that their best course of action is to create a better opportunity for their people by getting rid of their nuclear weapons,” Pompeo told Fox News.

North Korea has urged Washington to offer a new approach to resume negotiations, warning that it may take an unspecified “new path” if the United States fails to meet its expectations.

U.S. military commanders said the move could include the testing of a long-range missile, which North Korea has suspended since 2017, along with nuclear warhead tests.

Washington would be “extraordinarily disappointed” if North Korea tests a long-range or nuclear missile, White House national security adviser Robert O’Brien said on Sunday, vowing to take appropriate action as a leading military and economic power.

The United States had opened channels of communication with North Korea and hoped Kim would follow through on denuclearization commitments he made at summits with U.S. President Donald Trump, O’Brien said.

A video released by the U.S. Air Force and reviewed by Reuters on Monday showed a simulation of an Aegis destroyer spotting what appeared to be a North Korean intercontinental ballistic missile being fired toward the Pacific over the skies of Japan, prompting the launch of ground interceptor missiles.

The 65-second clip was dated September and released on Dec. 2 on the website of the U.S. Defense Visual Information Distribution Service.

A South Korean military source said while it was largely a regular promotional video, its release coincided with heightened tensions amid a recent series of North Korean weapons tests and a war of words between Pyongyang and Washington.

‘INDEPENDENT ECONOMY’

North Korea’s economy seemed to be another key item on the agenda for the second-day session, Yang said, with the economy hit by international sanctions over its weapons programs.

KCNA said Kim discussed state management and economic issues in line with his campaign to build an “independent economy.”

Kim “presented the tasks for urgently correcting the grave situation of the major industrial sectors of the national economy,” KCNA said.

In New York, U.N. Security Council members were scheduled to hold an informal meeting on Monday to contemplate a Russian and Chinese proposal to ease sanctions on North Korea.

Russia and China proposed a draft U.N. Security Council resolution this month that would lift some sanctions in a bid to kick-start the denuclearization talks.

Speaking in Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said the proposal was aimed at promoting the talks process and to “satisfy reasonable humanitarian and livelihood requirements” from North Korea.

“China hopes that when it comes to the peninsula issue, Security Council members can assume their responsibilities and take proactive steps to support a political resolution,” he told a daily news briefing.

The move is seen as an attempt to create a crack in a U.S.-led global campaign to pressure North Korea to give up its weapons programs amid lackluster progress in the negotiations.

Sanctions on industries that earned North Korea hundreds of millions of dollars a year were imposed in 2016 and 2017 to cut off funding for Pyongyang’s weapons programs.

(Reporting by Hyonhee Shin; Additional reporting by Daewoung Kim, Ben Blanchard in Beijing and Doina Chiacu in Washington; Editing by Michael Perry and Nick Macfie)

U.S. unsure about circumstances of tanker towed to Iran

FILE PHOTO: A British Royal Navy patrol vessel guards the oil supertanker Grace 1, that's on suspicion of carrying Iranian crude oil to Syria, as it sits anchored in waters of the British overseas territory of Gibraltar, historically claimed by Spain, July 4, 2019. REUTERS/Jon Nazca

DUBAI (Reuters) – U.S. officials say they are unsure whether an oil tanker towed into Iranian waters was seized by Iran or rescued after facing mechanical faults as Tehran asserts, creating a mystery at sea at a time of high tension in the Gulf.

The MT Riah disappeared from ship tracking maps when its transponder was switched off in the Strait of Hormuz on July 14. Its last position was off the coast of the Iranian island of Qeshm in the strait.

Iran says it towed a vessel into its waters from the strait after the ship issued a distress call. Although Tehran did not name the vessel, the Riah is the only ship whose recorded movements appear likely to match that description.

A U.S. official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said it appeared that the tanker was in Iranian territorial waters, but it was not clear whether that was because Iran had seized it or rescued it.

The mystery comes at a time when Washington has called for greater security for ships in the Gulf.

Iran has threatened to retaliate for the British seizure of an Iranian oil tanker accused of violating sanctions on Syria. Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has branded the British action “piracy”.

The United States has also blamed Iran for attacks on tankers in the Gulf since May, which Tehran denies.

Shipping experts say U.S. sanctions on Iran intended to halt its oil exports have led to a rise in unusual tanker movements away from shipping lanes, with Iran seeking covert ways to export its oil. Increasingly, ships are switching off location transponders, transferring oil at sea and concealing their routes. Iran has also become more dependent on a fleet of aging ships, and some have had to be towed for emergency repairs.

Adding to the riddle of the missing ship was difficulty establishing who owns it, which no country or company has so far publicly claimed. Initial reports described it as Emirati. However, an Emirati official told Reuters the tanker was neither owned nor operated by the UAE.

The tanker’s registered manager is Prime Tankers in the UAE. That company told Reuters it had sold the tanker to another UAE-based company, Mouj al-Bahar. An employee at Mouj al-Bahar told Reuters that the firm did not own it but had been managing the vessel up to two months ago, and that it was now under the management of a company called KRB Petrochem. Reuters could not reach KRB Petrochem for comment.

(Reporting by Dubai newsroom, Parisa Hafezi, Ghaida Ghantous and Alex Cornwell; Writing by Lisa Barrington; Editing by Peter Graff)

Iran, U.S. tension is a “clash of wills”: Guards commander

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan meets with Iran's Chief of Staff Major General Mohammad Baqeri in Ankara, Turkey August 16, 2017. Kayhan Ozer/Presidential Palace/Handout via REUTERS

GENEVA (Reuters) – The standoff between Iran and the United States is a “clash of wills”, a senior commander of Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guards said on Thursday, suggesting any enemy “adventurism” would meet a crushing response, Fars news agency reported.

Tensions have spiked between the two countries after Washington sent more military forces to the Middle East in a show of force against what U.S. officials say are Iranian threats to its troops and interests in the region.

FILE PHOTO: Iranian Revolutionary Guards speed boats are seen near the USS John C. Stennis CVN-74 (not pictured) as it makes its way to gulf through strait of Hormuz, December 21, 2018. REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed/File Phot

FILE PHOTO: Iranian Revolutionary Guards speed boats are seen near the USS John C. Stennis CVN-74 (not pictured) as it makes its way to gulf through strait of Hormuz, December 21, 2018. REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed/File Photo

“The confrontation and face-off of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the malicious government of America is the arena for a clash of wills,” Iran’s armed forces chief of staff Major General Mohammad Baqeri said.

He pointed to a battle during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war where Iran was victorious and said the outcome could be a message that Iran will have a “hard, crushing and obliterating response” for any enemy “adventurism”.

On Sunday, U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted: “If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran. Never threaten the United States again!”

Trump restored U.S. sanctions on Iran last year and tightened them this month, ordering all countries to halt imports of Iranian oil or face sanctions of their own.

Trump wants Iran to come to the negotiating table to reach a new deal with more curbs on its nuclear and missile programs.

Reiterating Iran’s stance, the spokesman for its Supreme National Security Council said on Thursday that “There will not be any negotiations between Iran and America.”

Keyvan Khosravi was also quoted as saying by the state broadcaster that some officials from several countries have visited Iran recently, “mostly representing the United States.”

He did not elaborate, but the foreign minister of Oman, which in the past helped pave the way for negotiations between Iran and the United States, visited Tehran on Monday.

“Without exception, the message of the power and resistance of the Iranian nation was conveyed to them,” he said.

In Berlin, a German diplomatic source told Reuters that Jens Ploetner, a political director in Germany’s Foreign Ministry, was in Tehran on Thursday for meetings with Iranian officials to try to preserve the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and cool tensions in the region.

(Reporting By Babak Dehghanpisheh in Geneva, Bozorgmehr Sharafedin in London, Editing by William Maclean)

Prayers at Jerusalem mosque end peacefully after days of tension

Palestinian Muslims enter the Golden Gate near Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem's Old City February 22, 2019. REUTERS/Ammar Awad

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Prayers at the compound of Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque passed off peacefully on Friday despite a week of tension over access to a corner of the compound.

Israeli police had increased their presence over concerns of violence as thousands of Muslim worshippers gathered at the holy site, which is known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary.

Before the prayer session, police arrested 60 people they suspected would incite violence, a police spokesman said.

The dispute focused on a passageway of gates and a stairway leading to a hall that had been closed by Israeli authorities for years and was reopened on Friday by Muslim religious officials. The hall is located a short distance from Al-Aqsa mosque itself.

Israeli police had heightened their presence throughout Jerusalem’s walled old city to prevent any clashes from breaking out, the police spokesman said.

The old city was among areas Israel captured in a 1967 war with Jordan, which retains a stewardship role at the mosque.

(Reporting by Ali Sawafta; Editing by Alison Williams)

Trump cancels summit with North Korea scheduled for next month

FILE PHOTO: A combination photo shows U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (R) in Washignton, DC, U.S. May 17, 2018 and in Panmunjom, South Korea, April 27, 2018 respectively. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque and Korea Summit Press Pool/File Photos

By David Brunnstrom and Matt Spetalnick

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday called off a planned historic summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, even after North Korea followed through on a pledge to blow up tunnels at its nuclear test site.

Referring to a scheduled June 12 meeting with Kim in Singapore, Trump said in a letter to the North Korean leader: “Sadly, based on the tremendous anger and open hostility displayed in your most recent statement, I feel it would be inappropriate, at this time, to have this long- planned meeting.”

Trump called it “a missed opportunity” and said he still hoped to meet Kim someday.

The North Korean mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Trump’s cancellation of the summit.

U.S. stocks dropped sharply on the news, with the benchmark S&P 500 Index falling more than half a percent in about 10 minutes. Investors turned to U.S. Treasury debt as a safe alternative, driving the yield on the 10-year note, which moves inversely to its price, down to a 10-day low and back below the psychologically important 3 percent level.

The U.S. dollar also weakened broadly, particularly against the Japanese yen, which climbed to a two-week high against the greenback.

“Please let this letter serve to represent that the Singapore summit, for the good of both parties, but to the detriment of the world, will not take place,” Trump wrote.

“You talk about your nuclear capabilities, but ours are so massive and powerful that I pray to God that they will never have to be used,” he said.

Earlier on Thursday, North Korea repeated a threat to pull out of the summit with Trump next month and warned it was prepared for a nuclear showdown with Washington if necessary.

FADED HOPE

North Korea’s pursuit of nuclear weapons has been a source of tension on the Korean peninsula for decades, as well as antagonism with Washington. The rhetoric reached new heights under Trump as he mocked Kim as “little rocket man” and in address at the United Nations threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea if necessary. Kim had called Trump mentally deranged and threatened to “tame” him with fire.

Kim rarely leaves North Korea and his willingness to meet and Trump’s acceptance sparked hope but it had faded in recent days.

In a statement released by North Korean media, Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui had called U.S. Vice President Mike Pence a “political dummy” for comparing North Korea – a “nuclear weapons state” – to Libya, where Muammar Gaddafi gave up his unfinished nuclear development program, only to be later killed by NATO-backed fighters.

“Whether the U.S. will meet us at a meeting room or encounter us at nuclear-to-nuclear showdown is entirely dependent upon the decision and behavior of the United States,” Choe said.

A small group of international media selected by North Korea witnessed the demolition of tunnels at the Punggye-ri site on Thursday, which Pyongyang says is proof of its commitment to end nuclear testing.

The apparent destruction of what North Korea says is its only nuclear test site has been widely welcomed as a positive, if largely symbolic, step toward resolving tension over its weapons. North Korean leader Kim has declared his nuclear force complete, amid speculation the site was obsolete anyway.

Cancellation of what would have been the first ever summit between a serving U.S president and a North Korean leader denies Trump what supporters hoped could have been the biggest diplomatic achievement of his presidency, and one worthy of a Nobel Prize.

“I felt a wonderful dialogue was building between you and me, and ultimately it is only that dialogue that matters,” Trump said in his letter to Kim. “Some day, I look very much forward to meeting you.”

(Reporting by Joyce Lee; additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in Beijing and Hyonhee Shin in Seoul; Writing by Josh Smith and Doina Chiacu; Editing by Robert Birsel and Bill Trott)

Days after Hawaii alert gaffe, Japan issues false alarm about a missile launch

Japan's public broadcaster NHK's false alarm about a North Korean missile launch which was received on a smart phone is pictured in Tokyo, Japan January 16, 2018. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japanese public broadcaster NHK issued a false alarm about a North Korean missile launch on Tuesday, just days after a similar gaffe caused panic in Hawaii, but it managed to correct the error within minutes.

It was not immediately clear what triggered the mistake.

“We are still checking,” an NHK spokesman said.

NHK’s 6.55 p.m. alert said: “North Korea appears to have launched a missile … The government urges people to take shelter inside buildings or underground.”

The same alert was sent to mobile phone users of NHK’s online news distribution service.

In five minutes, the broadcaster put out another message correcting itself.

Regional tension soared after North Korea in September conducted its sixth and largest nuclear test and in November said it had successfully tested a new type of intercontinental ballistic missile that could reach all of the U.S. mainland. It regularly threatens to destroy Japan and the United States.

There were no immediate reports of panic or other disruption following the Japanese report.

Human error and a lack of fail-safe measures during a civil defense warning drill led to the false missile alert that stirred panic across Hawaii, a state emergency management agency spokesman said.

Elaborating on the origins of Saturday’s false alarm, which went uncorrected for nearly 40 minutes, spokesman Richard Rapoza said the employee who mistakenly sent the missile alert had been “temporarily reassigned” to other duties.

(Reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaka; Editing by Nick Macfie)

Egypt says it does not want war as tension grows with Sudan

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi gives a televised statement on the attack in North Sinai, in Cairo, Egypt November 24, 2017 in this still taken from video.

CAIRO (Reuters) – President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said on Monday Egypt is not conspiring against its neighbors and has no intention to fight, a reference to growing tension with Sudan.

Relations have deteriorated in recent weeks, including over a Sudan-Turkey naval agreement that angered Cairo and an ongoing dispute over a dam Ethiopia is building on the Nile river that runs through all three countries.

In the latest move, Sudan recalled its ambassador to Egypt without saying when he might be back.

“Let’s always look for peace and development, our people need that. They don’t need us arguing and entering conflict,” Sisi said at an inauguration of new projects in the province of Monofeya.

He said Egypt would not interfere in other countries’ affairs. Khartoum has in the past accused Cairo of political meddling while Egypt has accused Sudan of harboring Egyptian Islamists.

“Egypt will not fight its brothers … I’m saying this as a message to our brothers in Sudan,” Sisi said.

Khartoum and Ankara agreed last month that Turkey would rebuild a ruined Ottoman port city on Sudan’s Red Sea coast and construct a dock to maintain civilian and military vessels.

Egyptian officials reacted with suspicion about what they see as Turkey’s plans to expand its influence in the region.

Separately, Ethiopia is building a hydroelectric dam on the Nile which Cairo fears will restrict the waters flowing down from Ethiopia’s highlands and through Sudan to Egypt.

Ethiopia, which wants to become Africa’s biggest power exporter, says it will have no such impact.

Egypt believes Sudan is leaning toward the Ethiopian position in the dispute.

The Ethiopian foreign minister, who held talks with his Sudanese counterpart on Sunday, is expected to visit Cairo later this week for negotiations after multiple delays.

(Reporting by Mohamed El Sherif; Writing by Arwa Gaballa; Editing by Peter Graff)

Taiwan president warns China against military aggression

Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen speaks during the end-of-year news conference in Taipei, Taiwan December 29, 2017.

By Fabian Hamacher

TAOYUAN, Taiwan (Reuters) – Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen said on Friday China’s military ambitions are becoming more apparent and tension between Taiwan and the mainland must not be resolved through military force.

Tsai has faced increasing hostility from China since she won election early last year, with China stepping up military drills around Taiwan.

China suspects Tsai, from the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party, wants to push for the self-ruled island’s formal independence, a red line for Beijing, which considers Taiwan a wayward province and sacred Chinese territory.

“China’s military activities don’t only impact the situation in the Taiwan Strait, but also in all of East Asia … This is not a problem being faced alone by Taiwan,” Tsai told reporters.

“All countries in this region who want to see peace and stability, have a consensus … and China can’t ignore this, that cross strait issues absolutely can’t be resolved through military force but through peaceful means,” Tsai said during a news conference on a stage flanked by two models of fighter jets.

Tsai, however, said her island would not be passive in the face of a more hawkish China.

“Over the past year, the morale of our military is steadily improving, support for our military is also continuously increasing. This is the most gratifying thing since I’ve become president. I hereby solemnly announce that our annual defence budget will grow steadily within a reasonable range.”

Taiwan’s defence ministry warned in a white paper this week that China’s military threat was growing by the day, with the Chinese air force carrying out 16 rounds of exercises close to Taiwan over the past year or so.

Beijing says the drills are routine and that Taiwan had better get used to them.

“We live in a fast changing geopolitical environment; China’s ambition in military expansion in the region is becoming more apparent, as evident by the People’s Liberation Army’s frequent aerial and naval activities,” Tsai said.

China has warned Taiwan against “using weapons to refuse reunification” and China’s state media has prominently featured pictures of Chinese jets flying close to the island.

Tsai has stressed she wants peace across the Taiwan Strait, but has pledged to defend Taiwan’s security and way of life.

Taiwan is well equipped with mostly U.S.-made weapons, but has been pressing Washington to sell more advanced equipment.

Democratic Taiwan has shown no interest in being run by Beijing. Taiwan’s government has accused Beijing of not understanding what democracy is about when it criticises Taipei.

(Fixes dateline to Taoyuan not Taipei)

(Additional reporting by Clare Jim in Hong Kong; Writing by James Pomfret; Editing by Ben Blanchard, Robert Birsel)

North Korea likely to pursue talks, South says in rosy New Year forecast

South Korean soldiers patrol along a barbed-wire fence near the militarized zone separating the two Koreas, in Paju, South Korea, December 21, 2017

By Haejin Choi

SEOUL (Reuters) – South Korea predicted on Tuesday that North Korea would look to open negotiations with the United States next year in an optimistic outlook for 2018, even as Seoul set up a specialized military team to confront nuclear threats from the North.

The U.N. Security Council unanimously imposed new, tougher sanctions on reclusive North Korea on Friday for its recent intercontinental ballistic missile test, a move the North branded an economic blockade and act of war.

“North Korea will seek negotiation with United States, while continuing to pursue its effort to be recognized as a de facto nuclear-possessing country,” South Korea’s Unification Ministry said in a report, without offering any reasons for its conclusion.

The Ministry of Defence said it would assign four units to operate under a new official overseeing North Korea policy, aimed to “deter and respond to North Korea’s nuclear and missile threat”.

Tensions have risen over North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs, which it pursues in defiance of years of U.N. Security Council resolutions, with bellicose rhetoric coming from both Pyongyang and the White House.

U.S. diplomats have made clear they are seeking a diplomatic solution but President Donald Trump has derided talks as useless and said Pyongyang must commit to giving up its nuclear weapons before any talks can begin.

In a statement carried by the official KCNA news agency, North Korea said the United States was terrified by its nuclear force and was getting “more and more frenzied in the moves to impose the harshest-ever sanctions and pressure on our country”.

China, the North’s lone major ally, and Russia both supported the latest U.N. sanctions, which seek to limit the North’s access to refined petroleum products and crude oil and its earnings from workers abroad, while on Monday Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying called for all countries to ease tension.

On Tuesday, Beijing released customs data indicating China exported no oil products to North Korea in November, apparently going over and beyond U.N. sanctions.

China, the main source of North Korea’s fuel, did not export any gasoline, jet fuel, diesel or fuel oil to its neighbor last month, data from the General Administration of Customs showed.

China also imported no iron ore, coal or lead from North Korea in November.

In its 2018 forecast, South Korea’s Unification Ministry said it believed the North would eventually find ways to blunt the effects of the sanctions.

“Countermeasures will be orchestrated to deal with the effects, including cuts in trade volume and foreign currency inflow, lack of supplies, and reduced production in each part of the economy,” the report said.

The latest round of sanctions was prompted by the Nov. 29 test of what North Korea said was an intercontinental ballistic missile that put the U.S. mainland within range of its nuclear weapons.

The Joongang Ilbo Daily newspaper, citing an unnamed South Korean government official, reported on Tuesday that North Korea could also be preparing to launch a satellite into space.

Experts have said such launches are likely aimed at further developing the North’s ballistic missile technology, and as such would be prohibited under U.N. resolutions.

The North Korean Rodong Sinmun newspaper said on Monday saying that “peaceful space development is a legitimate right of a sovereign state”.

North Korea regularly threatens to destroy South Korea, the United States and Japan, and says its weapons are necessary to counter U.S. aggression.

The United States stations 28,500 troops in the South, a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean War, and regularly carries out military exercises with the South, which the North sees as preparations for invasion.

(Additional reporting by Muyu Xu and Ryan Woo in Beijing; Writing by Josh Smith; Editing by Nick Macfie)

U.S. plan to move Israel embassy sign of ‘failure’, Iran’s leader says

BEIRUT (Reuters) – U.S. plans to move its Israel embassy to Jerusalem are a sign of incompetence and failure, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Wednesday.

U.S. President Donald Trump is expected to announce that the United States recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and will move its embassy there, breaking with longtime U.S. policy and potentially stirring unrest.

“That they claim they want to announce Quds as the capital of occupied Palestine is because of their incompetence and failure,” Khamenei said, using the Arabic name for Jerusalem, according to his official website.

He made the remarks to a group of top Iranian officials, regional officials and religious figures attending a conference in Tehran.

Iran has long supported a number of Palestinian militant groups opposed to Israel.

“The issue of Palestine today is at the top of the political issues for Muslims and everyone is obligated to work and struggle for the freedom and salvation of the people of Palestine,” Khamenei said.

At the same gathering, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said, “Quds belongs to Islam, Muslims and the Palestinians, and there is no place for new adventurism by global oppressors,” according to Mizan, the news site for the Iranian judiciary.

Iran wants “peace and stability” in the region but will not tolerate the violation of Islamic holy sites, Rouhani said.

“No Muslim population, including Iran, will tolerate the violation of oppressors and Zionists against Islamic holy sites,” Rouhani said, according to Mizan.

The United States has not been able to reach its goals and seeks to destabilize the region, Khamenei said.

“On the issue of Palestine, (U.S.) hands are tied and they cannot advance their goals,” Khamenei said, saying the Palestinian people would be victorious.

“American government officials have said themselves that we have to start a war in the region to protect the security of the Zionist regime (Israel),” Khamenei said.

Certain rulers in the region are “dancing to America’s tune” Khamenei said, an indirect reference to Iran’s main regional rival Saudi Arabia.

“Whatever America wants, they’ll work against Islam to accomplish it,” he said.

(Reporting by Babak Dehghanpisheh, editing by Larry King)