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Iran's Zarif: 'End of US malign presence in West Asia has begun'

Iranian foreign minister refers to his US counterpart, Mike Pompeo, as an 'arrogant clown'
Iranian women gather to mourn Qassem Soleimani in Tehran on 4 January (Reuters)

Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif vowed that the end of the American presence in the Middle East had begun in scathing remarks that reiterated Iranian officials' promises to avenge the US killing of top general Qassem Soleimani.

In a tweet posted on Saturday that featured photos of big crowds of Iranians mourning the death of Soleimani, Zarif hit out at his American counterpart.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had earlier posted a video on Twitter of what he said were Iraqis celebrating the death of Soleimani.

"24 hrs ago, an arrogant clown - masquerading as a diplomat - claimed people were dancing in the cities of Iraq," Zarif wrote on Saturday.

"Today, hundreds of thousands of our proud Iraqi brothers and sisters offered him their response across their soil.

"End of US malign presence in West Asia has begun."

Thousands had rallied across Iran to denounce the killing of Soleimani, who was the head of the Revolutionary Guards' Quds Force, overseeing Tehran's military activities across the region in cooperation with its allies and proxies.

His assassination came after months of tensions between Tehran and Washington.

US President Donald Trump had withdrawn from a multilateral nuclear deal with Iran in May 2018, gradually reimposing crippling sanctions on the Iranian economy.

The deal had seen Iran scale back its nuclear programme in exchange for the lifting of sanctions. Zarif himself was targeted with US sanctions last year.

Several Iranian officials have promised to respond to the assassination of Soleimani, with Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei vowing "severe revenge" against his killers.

While Zarif was tweeting of an end to the US presence in the region, the opposite seemed to be happening, at least for now.

On Friday, the US military announced it was sending thousands of additional American troops to the Middle East.

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