In an exclusive interview with CNN, Zarif said Iran hoped to avoid conflict, adding that the country was willing to talk to its regional rivals Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
However, the possibility of a return to negotiations with the US would not happen unless Washington provided full sanctions relief as promised under the 2015 nuclear deal, the top diplomat said.
He again denied Tehran’s involvement in weekend attacks on Saudi Arabia’s oil facilities, which dramatically ratcheted up tensions in the region this week.
Zarif said Yemen’s Houthi fighters, who claimed responsibility for the attack, have stepped up their military capabilities and are capable of conducting a sophisticated operation such as the one that knocked out half of the kingdom’s energy production.
“I cannot have any confidence that they did it because we just heard their statement,” said Zarif. “I know that we didn’t do it. I know that the Houthis made a statement that they did it.”
Asked what the consequence of a US or Saudi military strike on Iran would be, Zarif said, “All-out war.”
“I make a very serious statement about defending our country. I am making a very serious statement that we don’t want to engage in a military confrontation,” said Zarif.
He added that a military response based on “deception” about the weekend attacks would cause “a lot of casualties.”
“But we won’t blink to defend our territory,” he said.