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World News

Iran: Christians warned to be "extremely careful" of their language as tensions rise

by Heather Preston

A Christian politician has warned believers against making statements that could antagonise the Middle East as tensions grow between Iran and the USA.

His comments come after the killing of Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani by US troops on Friday.

Alistair Burt formerly worked on Middle East issues whilst a minister at the Foreign Office.

He told Premier the language that has been used by American evangelicals has contributed towards tensions between the two nations.

"I hope that the church in the UK will avoid what we've seen in the United States, evangelical pastors in the United States claiming that God is great again in America," he explained. "This only serves to fuel a sense in the Middle East that the spread of the Christian faith is at the heart of what America is about. And accordingly, it makes life more difficult."

Soleimani's daughter Zeinab has called Donald Trump "crazy" for his actions and has warned America it is facing a "dark day" for her father's death.

Burt says the US President's actions have potentially devastating consequences.

"The killing of this man is so significant. The equivalent reprisal would be the killing of someone so significant in the United States or elsewhere. That would almost certainly provoke war," he said.

"That's why all the efforts must now be made to prevent that. But this will not be easy. Its calls for revenge are very clear, the Middle East works in a way where these matters are taken exceptionally personally and seriously."

Donald Trump has said the US will hit back "very fast and very hard" if Tehran retaliates.

Burt says the President's actions have implications for UK troops and promoting peace must be a priority.

"They worked very closely with United States Forces to cooperate in combating Daesh and the elements of so called IS in the area, and if any action was taken against an American base, it might involve UK troops as well. There are other UK personnel in the area, the Foreign Office and the government will be extremely concerned about their safety and always working to make sure that they are as safe as they can be."
Amid fears of a military confrontation, Boris Johnson and a number of European leaders are urging the two nations to de-escalate the situation.

The Prime Minister will lead a National Security Council meeting tomorrow to discuss the tensions.

Iraq's Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi al-Muntafiki, has agreed to work to find a diplomatic way forward.

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