EghtesadOnline: A new escalation in tensions between Iran and the United States has prompted global alarm and a plea for both countries to exercise restraint and pursue diplomacy rather than going down the path of confrontation.
The calls for de-escalation came after Iran on Thursday shot down a US military surveillance drone, which it said had violated the country's airspace, in the south.
The drone had taken off from the UAE, according to Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif.
In response, Washington prepared a retaliatory attack, claiming that the unmanned aircraft fell in international airspace, Financial Tribune reported.
US President Donald Trump said Friday morning that the US military had been "cocked and loaded" for a strike against Iran on Thursday night, but that he called it off with 10 minutes to spare when a general told him that 150 people would probably die in the attack, according to the New York Times.
Parviz Esmaeili, the Iranian president's deputy chief of staff for communications and information, disputed Trump's claim.
In a tweet, he said the US leader's decision was apparently influenced by "opposition by regional allies and the emergence of solid evidence that the American drone was flying in Iranian airspace," IRNA reported on Saturday.
UAE Envoy Summoned
The Foreign Ministry on Saturday summoned the UAE's charge d'affaires to protest facilitating the violation of Iranian airspace by the American drone, ISNA reported.
In addition, Iran on Friday protested to the Swiss envoy in Tehran, the representative of US interests, over the incident.
Foreign Ministry officials told the Swiss diplomat that Washington will be responsible for the consequences of such "provocative" moves, the ministry's website reported.
He was also told that Iran does not seek war with any country, including the United States, but will defend its territorial integrity in the face of any aggression.
In a statement issued on Saturday, the Assembly of Experts condemned the US act of belligerence. It said Iran will not initiate a war but will respond to any belligerent move with "full force", IRNA reported.
US-Iran tensions have increased since Trump last year withdrew Washington from a landmark nuclear deal signed between Tehran and world powers in 2015 and reimposed economic sanctions.
Call for Restraint
The world reacted to the latest frictions with calls for demonstrating patience and resolving issues through diplomatic channels.
Russia accused the US of deliberately stoking dangerous tensions with Iran and pushing the situation to "the brink of war".
In comments carried by state-run RIA Novosti news agency on Friday, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov called on Washington to weigh the possible consequences of conflict with Iran, warning that these rising tensions are extremely dangerous, Aljazeera reported.
Dmitry Peskov, Kremlin’s spokesman, also urged all sides to show restraint.
"The situation in the Persian Gulf is very tense. We are extremely concerned about it; we're following the situation carefully and we call on all sides involved to show restraint."
European Council President Donald Tusk said the bloc is urging restraint on both sides, adding that the EU's top diplomat, Federica Mogherini, is in regular contact with the two capitals.
A spokeswoman for British Prime Minister Theresa May said on Friday the United Kingdom was in regular contact with the US over the situation with Iran.
"We don't believe escalation would be in any party's interest and continue to talk to the US and our partners," she said.
French President Emmanuel Macron urged restraint, saying Paris was keen to keep the embattled Iran nuclear deal alive.
"I am very keen on avoiding an escalation of tensions in the region," he said, asking the parties involved to "reason, to calm down and to discuss".
German Chancellor Angela Merkel called for dialogue, saying, "Naturally, we are worried about the situation and we're counting on diplomatic negotiations for a political solution to a very tense situation."
Earlier on Friday, a spokeswoman for Merkel said Berlin welcomed reports that Trump decided against immediate military attack.
China repeated its earlier warnings against opening a "Pandora's box". Lu Kang, a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, said the current situation was "very complicated and also very sensitive".
"We have repeatedly called for all sides to remain rational and exercise restraint, and to refrain from actions that may lead to further escalation, and not to open the Pandora's box," he said, according to South China Morning Post.
Separately on Friday, Alessandra Vellucci, a spokeswoman for the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, made a statement on the escalating situation in the Persian Gulf: "I have only one strong recommendation—nerves of steel," Al Jazeera reported.
A Vatican cardinal implored the US and Iran to step back from escalating tensions and called for friendship.
In a tweet on Friday, Ghanaian Cardinal Peter Turkson wrote, "On our knees, let's pray USA & IRAN do not unsheathe the weapons of war!"
Following a rise in oil prices due to new tensions, Trump on Friday spoke with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman about Iran, Middle East stability and the oil market, the White House said, according to Reuters.
After interviewing Trump for NBC's "Meet the Press" program, NBC correspondent Chuck Todd said Trump had said he had no preconditions for talks with Iran and was willing to speak to Iranian leaders.
Iran says Washington cannot be trusted after unilaterally breaching an international agreement endorsed by the United Nations’ Security Council Resolution 2231.
Amir Ali Hajizadeh, commander of the Aerospace Division of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps, said on Friday that Iran could have downed an aircraft carrying American personnel on Thursday when it destroyed a large US drone over the Persian Gulf, but chose not to do so.
"We could have targeted a P-8 American plane" accompanying the drone, he told reporters as he unveiled parts of the drone that were recovered by Iranian forces, Tasnim News Agency reported.
"But we did not do this because our goal was to send a warning to terrorist American forces by shooting down the US drone."
Hajizadeh said the plane carried 35 people and had also infiltrated Iranian airspace. He added that Iran's forces gave warnings before downing the reconnaissance drone.
Majlis National Security and Foreign Policy Commission will discuss the incident in the coming days, lawmaker Kamal Dehqani Firouzabadi was quoted as saying by IRNA on Saturday.