Boris Johnson warns Donald Trump not to bomb cultural sites in Iran amid rising Middle East tensions
Boris Johnson has warned Donald Trump not to bomb cultural sites in Iran amid rising tensions in the Middle East following the killing of Qassem Suleimani.
After Tehran threatened to attack the White House in retaliation for the assassination of the Quds general, the US President said he was prepared to target 52 "high level and important" sites, including "Iranian culture".
But the Prime Minister’s official spokesperson refused to support such action, saying: "There are international conventions in place which prevent the destruction of cultural heritage."
Asked if such action would be a war crime, they replied: "Well as I say, you can read the international conventions for themselves.
“It is the 1954 Hague Convention for the protection of cultural property in the event of armed conflict."
Article 4.4 of the treaty says signatory countries “shall refrain from any act directed by way of reprisals against cultural property".
In the escalating war of words since Suleimani was killed in a drone strike at Baghdad airport on Friday, Mr Trump threatened to hit 52 targets in Iran - matching the number of hostages taken at the American Embassy in Tehran in 1979.
He said that list included cultural sites, despite his own Secretary of State Mike Pompeo earlier saying that wouldn't happen.
Iran has 24 Unesco World Heritage sites, including Meidan Emam in Isfahan - also known as Naqsh-e Jahan Square - which contains the Royal Mosque.
In response to Suleimani’s death, Iraq’s parliament has voted to kick out US troops.
In return Mr Trump has vowed to impose sanctions on Baghdad if they tell his forces, stationed there in the fight against ISIS, to vacate the country.
Mr Johnson’s spokesman said the UK would not follow suit and has "no plans" for sanctions, but urged Iraq to let UK and US troops remain there.
They said: “The coalition is in Iraq to protect Iraqis and others from the threat from Daesh at the request of the Iraqi government.
“We urge the Iraqi government to ensure the coalition is able to continue our vital work countering this shared threat.”
The spokesman also rejected suggestions that the assassination of Suleimani was illegal, saying: “States have a right to take action such as this in self-defence and the US have been clear that Soleimani was plotting imminent attacks on American diplomats and military personnel.”