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Iran: US asked for proportionate response to general's killing

Qasem Soleimani, the commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guards Quds Force foreign operations arm, was killed on Friday in a US drone strike in Baghdad, along with nine others, in an attack Tehran has vowed to avenge.

Iranian Revolutionary Guards take part in an anti-US rally to protest the killings during a US air stike of Iranian military commander Qasem Soleimani and Iraqi paramilitary chief Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, in the capital Tehran on 4 January 2020. Picture: AFP.

TEHRAN/BAGHDAD - The deputy commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guards said Washington had asked Tehran to respond "in proportion" after US forces killed top military commander Qasem Soleimani.

Soleimani, the commander of its Quds Force foreign operations arm, was killed before dawn Friday in a US drone strike in Baghdad, along with nine others, in an attack Tehran has vowed to avenge.

Hours later, the Americans "resorted to diplomatic measures... on Friday morning", the Guard's Rear-Admiral Ali Fadavi said on Iranian state television that night.

They "even said that if you want to get revenge, get revenge in proportion to what we did", he said, as quoted on the broadcaster's website.

Fadavi did not specify how Iran had received the message from its arch-enemy, even though Tehran and Washington have had no diplomatic relations for four decades.

Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said in separate television interview on Friday night that "Switzerland's envoy transmitted a foolish message from the Americans this morning".

The Swiss official "was summoned in the evening and received a decisive response in writing... to the Americans' audacious letter," Zarif added.

The Swiss foreign ministry confirmed Saturday that its charge d'affaires had handed over a letter from Washington to the Iranians when he was summoned to the foreign ministry on Friday morning.

Switzerland's embassy in Tehran has represented US interests in the Islamic republic since ties were cut in 1980.

But Fadavi said the United States was not in a position "to determine" Iran's response.

"The Americans must await severe revenge. This revenge will not be limited to Iran," he said.

"The 'Resistance Front', with a vast geography, is ready to materialise this revenge," he added, referring to Iran's allies across the Middle East.

Meanwhile, US-led forces helping Iraqi troops fight jihadists have scaled back operations, a US defence official told AFP on Saturday.

"Our first priority is protecting coalition personnel," the official said, saying the US-led force had "limited" their training and other anti-jihadist operations.

"It's not a halt," the source said, adding: "We have increased security and defensive measures at Iraqi bases that host coalition troops."

The official said the change came after a series of rocket attacks by pro-Iran factions on US troops in recent months.

Surveillance efforts were now focused on potential new attacks instead of the Islamic State group.

The rocket attacks, which killed one American contractor last month, have stoked fears of a proxy war between the United States and Iran on Iraqi soil.

Those worries skyrocketed Friday after the US strike which killed Soleimani.

The strike also killed the deputy head of Iraq's Hashed al-Shaabi, a network of mostly Shiite factions close to Iran and incorporated into the Baghdad government's security forces.

On Saturday, the Hashed said a new strike had hit a convoy of their forces north of the capital, with Iraqi state media blaming the United States.

But the spokesman for the US-led coalition denied it.

"There was no American or coalition strike," Myles Caggins told AFP.