Iran's UN ambassador accuses Donald Trump of 'starting a war against Iran' with killing of top general

  • Iran’s UN ambassador says US ‘started a war against Iran

  • Donald Trump said strike was to ‘stop a war, not to start a war’

  • US deploys 3,000 more troops to Middle East

  • Second airstrike in Baghdad kills five people, Iraqi officials claim

The US ‘started a war against Iran’ by killing top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani, Iran’s UN Ambassador has said.

Majid Takht Ravanchi said the killing of the general in a US airstrike in Baghdad would bring ‘harsh revenge’ from Iran.

His comments come as Donald Trump said the decision to launch the airstrike was aimed to ‘stop a war, not to start a war’.

General Qassem Soleimani was killed in an airstrike at Baghdad airport (Picture: Pool / Iranian Supreme Leader Press Office /Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

The death of General Soleimani, head of Iran’s elite Quds force, in the airstrike at Baghdad airport, which also killed nine others, has sparked an escalation in tensions between America and Iran, including the deployment of thousands of US troops to the region.

On Friday, Iraqi officials claimed that another air strike north of Baghdad hit two cars carrying Iran-backed militia, killing five people.

‘He should have been taken out many years ago’

Speaking at his private club in Mar-a-Lago, Florida, Mr Trump said he ordered the strike because Soleimani had killed and wounded many Americans over the years and was planning to kill more.

“We took action last night to stop a war. We did not take action to start a war,” he said, added: “He should have been taken out many years ago”.

Donald Trump said the airstrike was aimed to stop a war, not start one (Picture: REUTERS/Tom Brenner)

Iran has vowed revenge for the attack, and in an interview with CNN Mr Ravanchi said: “The US has already started a war against Iran, not just an economic war but something beyond that by assassinating one of our top generals.”

He added: “There will be harsh revenge.”

His comments echo those of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who vowed “harsh retaliation” after the airstrike, and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani who called the killing a “heinous crime” and said his country would “take revenge”.

Troops deployed and US citizens urged to leave Iraq

In the aftermath of the airstrike, which hit headlines around the world, the United States said it was sending nearly 3,000 more army troops to the Middle East.

The US also urged American citizens to leave Iraq “immediately” and said the US embassy in Baghdad, which was attacked by Iran-backed militiamen and their supporters last week, is closed with all consular services have been suspended.

US embassies also issued a security alert for Americans in Bahrain, Kuwait and Nigeria.

Marches in Tehran

Thousands of worshippers in Tehran took to the streets after Friday prayers to condemn the killing, waving posters of Soleimani and chanting “Death to deceitful America”.

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah called on “the resistance the world over” to avenge Soleimani’s death.

Thousands of people took to the streets in Tehran following Soleimani's death (Picture: Majid Saeedi/Getty Images)

Mr Trump has also faced criticism on home turf, with Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden saying he had: “tossed a stick of dynamite into a tinderbox”, which could leave the US “on the brink of a major conflict across the Middle East”.

The US Defence Department said it killed 62-year-old Soleimani because he “was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region”. It also accused the general of approving violent protests at the US embassy in Baghdad.

As tensions continued to escalate, the European Union warned against a “generalised flare-up of violence”.

Russia condemned the killing, and China said it was “highly concerned”.