UNITED NATIONS, May 21 (APP):UNITED NATIONS, May 21 (APP): With US-Iran tensions escalating, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has expressed concern about the heightening confrontational rhetoric between the two countries and called for calm.

“We are concerned about the rising rhetoric,” said UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric, who cited the firing of a rocket on May 19 that struck Baghdad’s Green Zone that houses foreign embassies and landed 500 meters from that of the United States as being “also a concern.”

“It is a very volatile region,” he told reporters at the regular noon briefing at UN Headquarters in New York on Monday.

The UN reacted after U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted on May 20, “If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran.”

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif immediately dismissed what he called Trump’s “genocidal taunts” and warned the U.S. president not to threaten Iran.

“We would ask all parties to lower the rhetoric and lower the threshold of action as well,” Dujarric, the UN spokesman, said.

There was no claim of responsibility for the rocket attack, which caused no casualties or significant damage.

Dujarric’s remarks came amid concerns about a potential military conflict between the United States and Iran.

Washington has ordered a beefing up of U.S. military assets in the Middle East and Persian Gulf, citing ” imminent threats” from Iran, and ordered the evacuation of personnel from the U.S. Embassy in neighbouring Iraq.

Tehran has dismissed the U.S. allegations, and accused Washington of an “unacceptable” escalation of tensions.

Both sides have said they do not want a war.

In a separate tweet on May 20, Trump said that if Tehran wants to negotiate, it will have to take the first step.

“Iran will call us if and when they are ever ready. In the meantime, their economy continues to collapse — very sad for the Iranian people!” the U.S. president tweeted.

Iranian President Hassan Rohani was quoted by state media as saying on May 20 that he favored talks and diplomacy but not under current conditions

“Today’s situation is not suitable for talks and our choice is resistance only,” Iran’s IRNA news agency quoted Rohani as saying.

Later on May 20, Trump told reporters: “With Iran, we’ll see what happens, but they’ve been very hostile. They’ve truly been the No.1 provocateur of terror.”

“I think Iran would be making a very big mistake if they did anything. If they do something, it will be met with great force but we have no indication that they will,” Trump said.
“We’ll have no choice,” he added.

But when asked by a reporter if the United States was going to war with Iran, Trump replied, “I hope not.”

Relations between Iran and the United States plummeted a year ago when Trump pulled out of the 2015 nuclear deal which curbed Iran’s nuclear programme in exchange for relief from crippling sanctions.

Since then, Washington has stepped up its rhetoric and reimposed sanctions, while the Western European parties to the accord said they remained committed to it.

In announcing the U.S. pullout from the nuclear agreement between Iran and world powers, Trump said the terms were not tough enough to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons and did not address Iran’s missile programme or Tehran’s alleged support for militants in the region.

Iran denies it supports insurgent activity, including in Yemen, and has said its nuclear programme is strictly for civilian energy purposes.

Earlier this month, Iran said it was suspending several commitments under the nuclear pact, and threatened to step up uranium enrichment if European countries did not act to protect it from the effects of the U.S. sanctions.

Meanwhile, Iran’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Majid Takht-Ravanchi, sent a letter to the UN chief on Monday saying, “Iran will never choose war as an option in pursuing its foreign policy, but if war is imposed on us, Iran will vigorously exercise its inherent right to self-defense in order to defend its nation and to secure its interests.”

Tension between the two countries escalated after the publication of a report in The New York Times that the United States was preparing to send 120,000 troops to the Middle East in face of a threat from Iran.

Trump denied the report but said he would send a lot more than that number if there was going to be a fight.