Donald Trump says the US killed Iranian General Qassem Soleimani to 'stop a war'

3 January 2020, 20:22 | Updated: 4 January 2020, 00:05

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Donald Trump has insisted he ordered the killing of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani to "stop a war". Picture: PA

By Kate Buck

Donald Trump has insisted he ordered the killing of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani to "stop a war".

In the first press conference since the announcement of Soleimani's death, Mr Trump said Soleimani had been "plotting imminent and sinister attacks on American diplomats and military personnel".

General Qassem Soleimani "made the death of innocent people his sick passion", Mr Trump said from his estate in Palm Beach, Florida, adding "a lot of lives would have been saved" if he had been hunted down years ago.

He went on to say: "But we caught him in the act and terminated him" and "We take comfort knowing his reign of terror is now over."

Mr Trump stressed: "We took action last night to stop a war.

"We did not take action to start a war."

Just hours after Mr Trump's speech, an air strike hit two cars carrying Iran-backed militia north of the Iraqi capital of Baghdad.

An official said five members of the militia were killed, whose identity was not immediately known.

Protest rallies in Pakistan against Gen Qassim Soleimani's killing
Protest rallies in Pakistan against Gen Qassim Soleimani's killing. Picture: PA

In his speech the US president also said that he admired the Iranian people and that the US is not seeking a regime change. 

"The future belongs to the people of Iran, to those who seek peaceful coexistence and cooperation, not the terrorist warlords," Mr Trump said.

He also claimed the world was a safer place without "monsters" such as Gen Soleimani.

Mr Trump said: "If Americans anywhere are threatened we have all of those targets fully identified and I am ready and prepared to take whatever action is necessary, and that particularly refers to Iran."

The President stuck to his script, keeping his speech short. He didn’t take any questions at the end of the press conference.

Soleimani was killed in the early hours of Friday morning in a targeted strike at Baghdad Airport in the neighbouring Iraq in the early hours of Friday morning.

Iran's upper echelons swiftly vowed "crushing revenge" for the assassination, which follows years of tensions between the Islamic Republic and the US.

Ismail Qani has warned America of the consequences for their actions
Ismail Qani has warned America of the consequences for their actions. Picture: PA

Mr Trump's speech and the subsequent air strike come after the US sent an extra 3,500 troops to the region. While military sources say this was a long-planned deployment and not a reaction to the attack on Friday, some of the troops will be based in Iraq.

Boris Johnson is yet to make a statement on Iran, but sources say that he was not warned in advance about the US airstrike in Iraq which killed the top Iranian general.

Jeremy Corbyn has written to the prime minister to demand answers to a series of questions following the US assassination of Qassem Suleimani.

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