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The Latest: Baghdad residents say 3 blasts hit Green Zone

Posted at 4:37 AM, Jan 05, 2020

BEIRUT (AP) — The latest on U.S.-Iran tensions (all times local):

9:50 p.m.

Residents of the Iraq's capital of Baghdad say three explosions rang out heard inside the heavily-fortified Green Zone, home to the U.S. Embassy and the seat of Iraq's government.

This is was the second such attack in recent days.

Alert sirens were sounded Sunday in the area on the west bank of the Tigris river.

There was no immediate confirmation from authorities but the explosions were believed to have been from mortars or rockets that struck the area.

The strikes come after top Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani was killed in a U.S. drone strike in Baghdad. His killing has escalated the crisis between Iran and the U.S.


9:20 p.m.

Turkey’s president called for de-escalation between Iran and the U.S. following America's killing of an Iranian general. He says the slaying of a top commander will likely not go unanswered, and voiced concern about regional security risks.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan's first public comments on the killing came in a televised interview Sunday. He says he was surprised because the strike occurred just hours after a phone call with President Donald Trump.

Erdogan said he “especially had suggested to (Trump) that tensions with Iran should not be heightened" during that call.

Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani's killing in a drone strike in Baghdad has escalated the crisis between Iran and the U.S.

Tehran has since abandoned all limits of its 2015 nuclear deal, and Iraq's parliament called for the expulsion of all American troops from Iraqi soil.

Turkey shares a border with Iran, Iraq and Syria.


8:05 p.m.

Iranian state television reports that Iran will no longer abide by any of the limits of its 2015 nuclear deal.

The announcement came Sunday night after another Iranian official said it would consider taking even-harsher steps over the U.S. killing of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani on Friday in Baghdad.

It’s unclear what this means for the program, especially when it comes to enrichment of uranium. Authorities did not immediately elaborate.


6:30 p.m.

A former leader of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard says the Israeli cities of Tel Aviv and Haifa can be targeted to avenge a general killed by a U.S. drone strike in Baghdad.

Mohsen Rezaee made the comment Sunday in Tehran at a ceremony in honor of the slain leader Qassem Soleimani.

He has previously alleged Israel somehow leaked information about Soleimani’s whereabouts to U.S. forces, who killed him Friday in a drone strike.

Israel and Iran are longtime foes.


5:50 p.m.

The U.S-led coalition in Iraq says it is pausing operations in support of Iraqi forces in the fight against Islamic State militants.

The coalition says it’s focus will now be on protecting U.S. personnel and bases in Iraq, and it is suspending training for Iraqi forces.

The coalition's decision Sunday comes days after a U.S. drone strike killed Iran's top commander in Baghdad.

The killing has heightened tensions in the region and tested the U.S.-Iraq alliance. Attacks on bases that house U.S. forces are expected to increase.

Iraqi lawmakers also voted Sunday in favor of a new bill that calls for the expulsion of all 5,000 US troops from Iraq.


4:45 p.m.

Iraq's parliament has voted to expel the U.S. military from the country.

Lawmakers voted Sunday in favor of a resolution that calls for ending foreign military presence in the country. The resolution's main aim is to get the U.S. to withdraw some 5,000 U.S. troops present in different parts of Iraq.

The vote comes two days after a U.S. airstrike killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani inside Iraq, dramatically increasing regional tensions.

The Iraqi resolution specifically calls for ending an agreement in which Washington sent troops to Iraq more than four years ago to help in the fight against the Islamic State group.

The resolution was backed by most Shiite members of parliament, who hold a majority of seats.

Many Sunni and Kurdish legislators did not show up for the session, apparently because they oppose abolishing the deal.


4:20 p.m.

The leader of Lebanon’s Hezbollah group says America's military in the Middle East region, including U.S. bases, warships and soldiers are fair targets following the U.S. killing of Iran’s top general.

Hassan Nasrallah says evicting U.S. military forces from the region is now a priority.

The U.S. military, which recently killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani “will pay the price,” he added in a speech Sunday.

“The suicide attackers who forced the Americans to leave from our region in the past are still here and their numbers have increased,” Nasrallah added.


4:10 p.m.

Pope Francis is calling for dialogue and self-restraint in his first public comments amid soaring tensions between the U.S. and Iran, after a U.S. airstrike killed Iran’s top general in Iraq.

During his Sunday noon blessing, Francis warned: “War brings only death and destruction.” He led the tens of thousands of faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square in a silent prayer for peace.

Speaking off the cuff, Francis said: “I call on all side to keep alive the flame of dialogue and self-control, and to avoid the shadows of enmity.”

Francis had hoped to visit Iraq this year to minister to the Christian minorities that have been targeted by the Islamic State group. Vatican officials and local Catholic bishops in Iraq have voiced concern about the impact of any new conflict on the weakest and most marginal in Iraq.


3:55 p.m.

Iraq's parliament has begun an emergency session and will likely vote on a resolution requiring the government to ask foreign forces to leave Iraq.

The resolution specifically calls for ending an agreement in which Washington sent troops to Iraq more than four years ago to help in the fight against the Islamic State group.

The resolution is backed by most Shiite members of parliament, who hold a majority of seats.

The request was put forward Sunday by the largest bloc in the legislature, known as Fatah. That bloc includes leaders associated with the Iran-backed paramilitary Popular Mobilization Units, which were a major force in the fight against IS.

Many Sunni and Kurdish legislators did not show up for the session, apparently because they oppose abolishing the deal.

At the start of the session, 180 legislators of the 329-member parliament were present.

3:40 p.m.

The leader of Lebanon’s Hezbollah group says the U.S. killing of a top Iranian general puts the entire region at the beginning of a “completely new phase.”

Speaking before thousands of supports at a rally in southern Beirut, Hassan Nasrallah has called the killing of Gen. Qassem Soleimani a “clear, blatant crime” that will transform the Middle East.

Sunday's comments were his first public statements since Soleimani was killed by a U.S. airstrike in Iraq Friday.

The Shiite militant group is Iran’s key proxy and most successful military export. Nasrallah, who has been in hiding fearing Israeli assassination since 2006, spoke to supporters through a large screen via satellite link.


2:10 p.m.

The daughter of Iran's Gen. Qassem Soleimani says the death of her father will "not break us" and the United States should know that his blood will not go for free.

Zeinab Soleimani told Lebanon's Al-Manar TV — which is linked with the Iran-backed Hezbollah group — that the "filthy" President Donald Trump will not be able to wipe out the achievements of the slain Iranian leader.

In the short interview aired Sunday, Zeinab Soleimani said Trump is not courageous because her father was targeted by missiles from afar and the U.S. president should have “stood face to face in front of him.”

The young woman, who spoke in Farsi with Arabic voice over, said that she knows that Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah will avenge the death of her father.


2:00 p.m.

The U.S. has warned American citizens in Saudi Arabia “of the heightened risk of missile and drone attacks" amid soaring tensions with Iran.

A security alert message sent Sunday by the U.S. mission there said that in the past “regional actors hostile to Saudi Arabia have conducted missile and drone attacks against both civilian and military targets inside the kingdom.”

It warned that U.S. citizens living and working near military bases, oil and gas facilities and other critical civilian infrastructure are at heightened risk of attack, particularly in the Eastern Province where the oil giant Aramco is headquartered and areas near the border with Yemen.


1:55 p.m.

Britain's foreign minister says it is trying to “de-escalate” a volatile situation after a U.S. drone strike killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said on Sunday in an interview with broadcaster Sky News that Soleimani “was a regional menace."

Raab added that the UK understood the U.S.'s “position” and "right to exercise self-defense.”

But Raab said the UK was discussing with top officials in the U.S. and Europe, as well as Iran and Iraq, about how to avoid a war, which he said wouldn’t be in anyone’s interests. Britain's Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said late Saturday that he had ordered two British Navy warships, the HMS Montrose frigate and the HMS Defender destroyer, to return to the Strait of Hormuz amid the soaring regional tensions.


1:40 p.m.

Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman says that officials in the Islamic Republic plan to meet Sunday night to discuss their next step out of the nuclear deal and that it will be even bigger than initially planned.

Abbas Mousavi made the comment Sunday during a briefing with journalists after a U.S. airstrike killed Iranian Revolutionary Guard Gen. Qassem Soleimani.

Mousavi said the step would be greater than planned as “in the world of politics, all developments are interconnected.”

If taken, it would be the fifth step to break terms of Tehran's 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, which saw Iran limit its enrichment of uranium in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions.

Mousavi did not elaborate on what that step could be. Iran previously has broken limits of its enrichment, its stockpiles and its centrifuges, as well as restarted enrichment at an underground facility.


12:15 p.m.

Major stock markets in the Middle East are trading down on fears of a conflict between Iran and the U.S. after an American drone strike killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani.

The Boursa Kuwait closed down 4%. The Dubai Financial Market closed down just over 3%. Riyadh’s Tadawul was down over 2% as trading continued. The Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange fell 1.42%.

Egypt's stock exchange also fell 4%.

Meanwhile, oil prices continued to rise. Brent crude traded up 3.5% to $68.60 a barrel.

The U.S. killed Soleimani on Friday. Early Sunday, as Iran threatened “harsh retaliation,” President Donald Trump tweeted the U.S. was prepared to strike 52 sites in the Islamic Republic if any Americans are harmed.


11:50 a.m.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says President Donald Trump is “worthy of all appreciation” for ordering the killing of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani.

Netanyahu told his Cabinet Sunday that Soleimani “initiated, planned and carried out many terror attacks" in the Middle East and beyond. Israel has long accused Soleimani of being the mastermind of Iran's belligerency in the region.

Netanyahu said Israel stood alongside the United States in its current campaign against Iran.

Netanyahu has been among the strongest voices against Iran's Islamic rulers in recent years. The Israeli leader pushed hard against the nuclear deal Western powers signed with Tehran in 2015 and which Trump later reversed.

The United States killed Soleimani in a drone airstrike at Baghdad’s international airport early Friday. The Iranian commander was widely seen as the architect of Tehran’s proxy wars in the Middle East.


11:45 a.m.

The deputy leader of Lebanon's militant Hezbollah group says the United States carried out a "very stupid act" by killing Iran's Gen. Qassem Soleimani.

Sheikh Naim Kassem made his comments on Sunday after paying a visit to the Iranian embassy in Beirut where he paid condolences. He said the attack will make Tehran and its allies stronger.

Kassem told reporters "now we have more responsibilities" adding that the United States will discover that “its calculations” were wrong.

Heazbollah is a close ally of Iran's and considered part of a regional Iranian-backed alliance of proxy militias.


11:40 a.m.

Iranian officials are criticizing President Donald Trump's threats to target sites important to Iran's culture.

Trump threatened Iranian cultural sites would be hit fast and hard if Tehran attacks U.S. assets to avenge the killing of a powerful Iranian general.

Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif wrote on Twitter Sunday that after committing “grave breaches” in the killing of Gen. Qassem Soleimani, Trump is threatening new breaches of international law.

Zarif wrote: “Targeting cultural sites is a WAR CRIME."

Telecommunications minister Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi compared Trump's threats to the Islamic State group, Adolf Hitler and Genghis Khan.

“They all hate cultures. Trump is a ‘terrorist in a suit',” Jahromi wrote on Twitter, warning that nobody can defeat Iran.


11:30 a.m.

Iraq's Iran-backed militias say that some remains of the Iranian top general and Iraqi militant leader killed in the U.S. drone strike in Iraq were sent to Iran for DNA tests to identify their corpses.

The Popular Mobilization Forces said in a statement Sunday that the bodies of the two commanders as well as an Iraqi bodyguard were torn to pieces and mangled by the explosion of the American missiles near Baghdad's international airport.

It said the test will take few days after which the remains of the Iraqi commander, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, will be brought back to Iraq for burial in the holy Shiite city of Najaf.

Al-Muhandis was closely allied with Iran for decades.

Iran has declared three days of public mourning over Gen. Qassem Soleimani's death in the U.S. attack.


6:45 a.m.

The body of a top Iranian commander, who was killed in a U.S. drone strike, has arrived in Iran as the crisis between the two countries escalates.

Throngs of mourners carried Sunday the flag-draped casket of Gen. Qassem Soleimani off a plane in Ahvaz in southwestern Iran.

The U.S. drone strike targeting Soleimani in Iraq Friday also killed a leader of an Iran-backed Iraqi militia, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.

President Donald Trump threatened to bomb 52 sites in Iran if it retaliates by attacking Americans.

The tensions take root in Trump pulling out of Iran's nuclear deal with world powers. That accord soon likely will further unravel as Tehran is expected to announce as soon as Sunday another set of atomic limits the country will break.