(AP) — Iran’s president on Monday denied his country had sent drones to Russia for use in the war in Ukraine, even as the United States accuses Iran of not only providing the weapons but helping Russia build a plant to manufacture them.
“We are against the war in Ukraine,” President Ebrahim Raisi said as he met with media executives on the sidelines of the world’s premier global conference, the high-level leaders’ meeting at the U.N. General Assembly.
The Iranian leader spoke just hours after five Americans who had been held in Iranian custody arrived in Qatar, freed in a deal that saw President Joe Biden agree to unlock nearly $6 billion in frozen Iranian assets.
Known as a hard-liner, Raisi seemingly sought to strike a diplomatic tone. He reiterated offers to mediate the Russia-Ukraine war despite being one of the Kremlin’s strongest backers. And he suggested that the just-concluded deal with the United States that led to the prisoner exchange and assets release could “help build trust” between the longtime foes.
Raisi acknowledged that Iran and Russia have long had strong ties, including defense cooperation. But he denied sending weapons to Moscow since the war began. “If they have a document that Iran gave weapons or drones to the Russians after the war,” he said, then they should produce it.
Iranian officials have made a series of contradictory comments about the drones. U.S. and European officials say the sheer number of Iranian drones being used in the war in Ukraine shows that the flow of such weapons has not only continued but intensified after hostilities began.
Despite his remarks about trust, Raisi’s tone toward the United States wasn’t all conciliatory; he had harsh words at other moments.
Raisi said his country “sought good relations with all neighboring countries” in the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.