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Iran's President denies sending drones and other weapons to Russia, decries U.S. meddling

President Ebrahim Raisi, while addressing the media at the UN General Assembly, reiterated his willingness to mediate the Russia-Ukraine conflict, despite being a staunch supporter of the Kremlin. He firmly denied allegations that Iran had supplied drones to Russia for the Ukrainian war, despite the United States accusing Iran of not only providing these weapons but assisting in the establishment of a manufacturing plant for them.

"We stand against the conflict in Ukraine," President Ebrahim Raisi affirmed during his meeting with global media leaders on the sidelines of the prestigious UN gathering.

Mr. Raisi, often seen as a hard-liner, appeared to adopt a diplomatic stance, emphasizing his readiness to mediate in the Russia-Ukraine situation, despite Iran's strong backing of Russia. He also suggested that the recent agreement with the United States, which resulted in the release of American detainees and the unfreezing of nearly $6 billion in Iranian assets, could potentially "foster trust" between the long-standing adversaries.

While acknowledging Iran's enduring close ties with Russia, including defense cooperation, Mr. Raisi categorically denied sending any weaponry to Moscow after the onset of the conflict. He challenged the assertion, stating, "If they possess any evidence of Iran providing weapons or drones to Russia post-war, they should present it."

Iranian authorities have issued conflicting statements regarding the drone issue. U.S. and European officials argue that the significant use of Iranian drones in the Ukrainian war suggests a continuous and even intensified flow of such weaponry since hostilities commenced.

Despite his comments on trust-building, Mr. Raisi's attitude towards the United States was not entirely conciliatory, and he expressed strong sentiments on other occasions.

Mr. Raisi expressed Iran's aspiration for amicable relations with all neighboring Middle Eastern nations, including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. He stated, "We believe that if the Americans refrain from meddling in the affairs of Persian Gulf countries and other global regions and concentrate on their own concerns, the situation and relations between nations will improve."

The United Arab Emirates initially sought diplomatic reengagement with Tehran following ship attacks in their waters attributed to Iran. Saudi Arabia, with Chinese mediation, pursued a détente in March to reestablish diplomatic ties after years of tensions, which included the kingdom's involvement in the Yemen conflict, its opposition to Syrian President Bashar Assad, and concerns regarding Iran's nuclear program.

Mr. Raisi cautioned other countries in the region against growing too close to Israel, a U.S. ally, stating, "Normalizing relations with the Zionist regime does not enhance security." It's worth noting that Mr. Raisi was involved in the 1988 mass executions that claimed the lives of around 5,000 dissidents in Iran when he served as a prosecutor.

The Iranian leader dismissed Western criticisms of his nation's treatment of women, its crackdown on dissent, and its nuclear program. He drew parallels between protests in Iran and labor strikes and demonstrations by ethnic minorities in the United States and Western Europe. He pointed out that many people are killed by police each year in the U.S., criticizing the media for not giving those deaths as much attention as they do to the treatment of demonstrators in Iran. He also asserted, without evidence, that the widespread protests in Iran were part of a Western conspiracy.

"The issues related to women, hijab, human rights, and the nuclear matter," he stated, "are all excuses used by Americans and Westerners to harm the Islamic republic as an independent nation."

Photo Credit: via Reuters