WASHINGTON, Jan 7 (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday said he would obey international law on avoiding targeting cultural sites in military attacks, walking back a threat he made to Iran days earlier.
Trump on Saturday said the United States has targeted 52 Iranian sites, including ones that are very important to Iranian culture, and would strike if Iran attacks Americans or U.S. assets in response to the U.S. killing of its military commander, Qassem Soleimani.
Attacking cultural sites, though, would break international conventions and treaties, and the threat sparked concern around the world.
Trump, speaking to reporters in the Oval Office as he met Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, made clear he would reluctantly abide by the law.
“You know what, if that’s what the law is, I like to obey the law. But think of it: They kill our people, they blow up our people and then we have to be very gentle with their cultural institutions. But I’m OK with it. It’s OK me,” he said.
“I will say this: if Iran does anything that they shouldn’t be doing, they’re going to be suffering the consequences and very strongly,” he added.
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said at a news conference on Tuesday that it would not be appropriate for the United States to strike Iranian cultural sites.
(Reporting by Steve Holland; additional reporting by Jan Wolfe; Writing by Lisa Lambert; Editing by Chris Reese and Dan Grebler)