U.S. national-security adviser John Bolton has warned Iran that any attacks on U.S. interests or allies in the Persian Gulf will draw a "very strong response" from Washington.
Bolton made the comments on May 29 amid escalating tensions between Iran and the United States, prompting growing concerns of a possible military conflict.
Bolton's hard-line rhetoric contrasted with recent remarks by President Donald Trump, who said two days ago that the United States was not "looking to hurt Iran at all" and would "like to talk" to Tehran.
Bolton, speaking to reporters in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, said Iran was "almost certainly" behind attacks on oil tankers off the coast of the U.A.E. earlier this month.
Bolton tweeted that he met with the U.A.E. Crown Prince Sheikh Muhammad bin Zayed al-Nahyan and the country's national-security adviser to discuss "our strategic partnership and regional challenges."
Regional summits are planned on May 30 and May 31 in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, as Riyadh attempts to further isolate Tehran.
Washington, a close ally of Iranian regional rivals Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E., has blamed Tehran for the May 12 attacks that allegedly damaged four vessels, including two Saudi oil tankers.
A five-nation team of experts, including Americans, is investigating the attacks.
Bolton also said there was a failed attack recently on the Saudi port city of Yanbu, the terminus point of Saudi Arabia's east-west pipeline, adding that he suspected Iran was behind it. He did not elaborate.
Saudi Arabia has accused Tehran of ordering drone strikes on its east-west pipeline and other oil installations in the kingdom that were claimed by Yemen's Iran-backed Shi'ite Huthi rebels.
"The point is to make it very clear to Iran and its surrogates that these kinds of action risk a very strong response from the United States," Bolton said, without elaborating.
Abbas Musavi, a spokesman for Iran's Foreign Ministry, said that Bolton's remarks were a "ridiculous accusation."
Iranian President Hassan Rohani said that the "road is not closed" to talks with the United States, but only if Washington returns to the 2015 nuclear accord between world powers and Iran that curbed the country's nuclear program in exchange for relief from crippling economic sanctions.
However, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei reiterated that Tehran will not negotiate with America, because negotiation has no benefit and carries harm," according to his website.
Relations between Tehran and Washington have plummeted since the United States pulled out of the agreement one year ago.
Since then, Washington has reimposed sanctions, stepped up its rhetoric, and beefed up its military presence in the Middle East.
Acting U.S. Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said on May 29 that the hundreds of additional U.S. troops ordered deployed to the Middle East last week will go to Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
Speaking to reporters traveling with him to Asia, Shanahan said he believed that the recent deployment of a carrier strike group and B-52 bombers to the region had "deterred attacks on our people in Iraq."
But he said the situation "still remains tense" and that "the Iranian threat to our forces in the region remains."
Meanwhile, the White House announced that Bolton and his Israeli and Russian counterparts will meet in Jerusalem in June to discuss regional security issues.
A statement said Bolton, Israeli national-security adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat, and Nikolai Patrushev, the secretary of Russian President Vladimir Putin's Security Council, would take part in the meeting.
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