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Bolton warns Iran not to mistake ‘prudence’ for ‘weakness’

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US National Security Adviser says Trump's cancellation of strike on Iran does not give it a 'hunting licence'

JERUSALEM: US National Security Adviser John Bolton warned Teheran yesterday against misinterpreting as "weakness" US President Donald Trump's last-minute cancellation of a retaliatory strike on Iran.

"Neither Iran nor any other hostile actor should mistake US prudence and discretion for weakness," said Mr Bolton, ahead of a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem.

"No one has granted them a hunting license in the Middle East. Our military is rebuilt new and ready to go," said Mr Bolton, after Mr Trump called off a planned attack on Iran in response to Teheran downing a US drone last Thursday.

Mr Bolton, who was in Israel for a scheduled trilateral meeting with his Israeli and Russian counterparts Meir Ben-Shabbat and Nikolai Patrushev, noted the "current circumstances in the region make our conversations even more timely".

In a Saturday tweet, Mr Trump pledged to hit Iran with "major" new sanctions today.

Washington has imposed a series of measures against Teheran since Mr Trump pulled out of a landmark nuclear accord between Iran and world powers last year.

"Iran can never have nuclear weapons, not against the USA and not against the world," said Mr Bolton.

Iran says it is not seeking a nuclear weapon and its programme is for civilian purposes only.

On Saturday, the President said he would impose fresh sanctions, but he also wanted to make a deal to bolster Iran's flagging economy, an apparent move to defuse tensions.

He later said he had called off a military strike to retaliate because it could have killed 150 people.

Teheran repeated on Saturday that the drone was shot down over its territory, while the US said it happened in international airspace.

Speaking in Washington on Saturday before heading to the US presidential retreat at Camp David, Mr Trump indicated the government was taking a diplomatic path to put pressure on Teheran by moving to impose new sanctions.

Military action was "always on the table", the President said, but he added he was open to quickly reaching a deal with Iran that he said would bolster the country's economy.

"We will call it, 'Let's make Iran great again,'" Mr Trump said.

He later wrote on Twitter from Camp David: "We are putting major additional sanctions on Iran on Monday. I look forward to the day that sanctions come off Iran, and they become a productive and prosperous nation again."

Iran has said it would respond firmly to any threat against it and warned yesterday of the risks of a military confrontation.

"If a conflict breaks out in the region, no country would be able to manage its scope and timing," Iranian Major General Gholamali Rashid said, according to the semi-official news agency Fars.

"The American government must act responsibly to protect the lives of American troops by avoiding misconduct in the region." - AFP, REUTERS