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US-Iran Mideast escalation unnerves NATO alliance

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KABUL: A recent escalation of tensions between Washington and Tehran in the Middle East following the US killing of a top Iranian general has shaken American allies, prompting the NATO alliance to seek restraint and de-escalation.

Secretary-General of the trans-Atlantic alliance Jens Stoltenberg in a meeting with NATO ambassadors on Tuesday called on Iran to “avoid further violence and provocations”.

Following the strike against General Soleimani in Iraq and an ensuing unanimity in the Iraqi parliament for the expulsion of the US forces, the alliance convened to address the situation in the Middle East.

“Allies called for restraint and de-escalation as a new conflict would be in no-one’s interest,” said Stoltenberg. “We have recently seen an escalation by Iran, including the strike on a Saudi energy facility, and the shoot-down of an American drone”.

“For years, NATO allies have expressed concern about Iran’s destabilizing activities in the wider Middle East region. We agree Iran must never acquire a nuclear weapon. We share concern about Iran’s missile tests. And we are united in condemning Iran’s support for a variety of different terrorist groups,” NATO Chief said in a statement.

He said all military trainings in Iraq had been suspended in the wake of the Mideast tensions to ensure safety of their personnel. “NATO is prepared to continue our training and capacity-building when the situation permits. We remain strongly committed to the fight against international terrorism,” he noted.

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