By Alistair Bunkall, defence and security correspondent

The president of Iraq has warned that the world is “on the brink of serious catastrophe” as tensions between Iran and the US escalate in the Gulf.

Speaking to Sky News, Barham Salih said that everything must be done to avoid another conflict in the Middle East.

He said: "We must be worried and we have to take this escalation seriously. We're urging restraint and we are urging calm because the last thing the Middle East needs is another war.

Image: Iraqi President Barham Salih fears his country could get caught up in a conflict

"These tensions need to be defused and we very much hope a serious conversation will start to take place to avoid further escalation."

President Salih said that he had not seen American intelligence that blames Iran for the attacks of six tankers in the Gulf, but welcomed Donald Trump's last-minute decision to call off retaliatory airstrikes against Iran.


Donald Trump says the sanctions will target Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
Image: Donald Trump has imposed heavy sanctions targeting Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei

"Restraint is needed," he said.

"We cannot push this region into another abyss. The last thing we need is another conflict."

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If Iran and the US do go to war, Iraq could be caught in the middle – its neighbour Iran on one side, its military and financial backer on the other.

President Salih said discussions must also take place to rescue the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action), the official name of the Iranian nuclear deal, otherwise the crisis would deepen.

"Abrogating the JCPOA would mean uncertainty and a lot of miscalculations perhaps," he said.

"That would be detrimental to the entire neighbourhood, not just to Iran or Iraq or the Gulf."

Protesters have gathered outside the White House as tensions heighten between the US and Iran
Image: Tensions between the US and Iran have heightened in recent weeks

President Salih met Theresa May in Downing Street to talk about the problem of foreign fighters imprisoned in Iraq and Syria, hundreRead More – Source

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