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Russia to Washington: Drop Middle East troop plan and stop provoking Iran

FILE PHOTO: Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Ryabkov speaks during a news conference in Moscow

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia told the United States on Tuesday to drop what it called provocative plans to deploy more troops to the Middle East and to cease actions that looked like a conscious attempt to provoke war with Iran.

The comments, from Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov to Russian news agencies, followed an announcement from Acting U.S. Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan a day earlier who said Washington planned to send around 1,000 more troops to the Middle East for defensive purposes.

President Hassan Rouhani said on Tuesday that Iran would not wage war against any nation and the Kremlin called for restraint from all sides.

Ryabkov told reporters that Moscow had repeatedly warned Washington and its regional allies about what he called the "unthinking and reckless pumping up of tensions in an explosive region."

"Now what we see are unending and sustained U.S. attempts to crank up political, psychological, economic and yes military pressure on Iran in quite a provocative way. They (these actions) cannot be assessed as anything but a conscious course to provoke war," Ryabkov was cited as saying.

If Washington did not want war it had to show it, he said.

"If that's really how it is then the U.S. should step back from reinforcing its military presence," said Ryabkov.


(Reporting by Andrew Osborn and Maxim Rodionov, Editing by William Maclean)