The Latest | China criticizes US over visa denial for Iran FM

The Latest: China criticizes US over visa denial for Iran FM
In this image made from a video, mourners gather to pay their respects to the slain Gen. Qassem Soleimani who was killed in a U.S. airstrike, in Kerman, Iran Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2020. (Iran Press via AP)

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — The latest on U.S.-Iran tensions in the wake of the U.S. airstrike that killed Iran’s top general (all times local):

1:20 p.m.

China is criticizing the U.S. for reportedly denying a visa to Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to attend United Nations meetings in New York.

Foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said in Beijing on Tuesday that the U.S. has an international obligation to issue visas for such meetings as the host country of the U.N.

Zarif said the U.S. declined to issue him a visa, adding that “this is because they fear someone will go there and tell the truth to the American people.” Tensions have soared over the killing of a top Iranian general in a U.S. airstrike last week.

Geng also said China is highly concerned about the situation in the Middle East and urged the U.S. not to abuse the use of force. He called on all parties to exercise restraint to prevent a spiral of escalation.

1 p.m.

The remains of a senior Iraqi militia commander killed in a U.S. drone strike last week have been brought to Iraq from Iran for burial. Thousands of mourners clad in black chanted “America is the Great Satan” during the procession from the border.

Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, a veteran Iraqi militant who was closely allied with Iran, was killed in the strike that also killed Iran’s top general, Qassem Soleimani, in Baghdad.

Al-Muhandis’ remains had been taken to Iran for DNA testing. They were sent back through the Shalamsheh border crossing to his hometown of Basra in southern Iraq before being transferred to the holy city of Najaf for burial.

Thousands of mourners in Basra’s city center gathered to receive the body. Many waved banners of the Kataeb Hezbollah, or Hezbollah Brigades, that al-Muhandis founded. The U.S. has blamed the group, which is separate from the Lebanese Hezbollah movement, for a rocket attack in northern Iraq in late December that killed a U.S. contractor. That prompted the airstrike last week.

12:30 p.m.

Slovakia says it has moved its seven service members from Iraq to an unspecified location. It is the latest European country to move troops in response to the soaring tensions after a U.S. airstrike killed Iran’s top commander in Baghdad last week.

The office of Slovakia’s Prime Minister Peter Pellegrini said Tuesday it will consult with NATO allies on further steps. Its seven service members have been in Iraq as part of a NATO training mission.

Germany plans to move some of its roughly 120 soldiers in Iraq to neighboring Jordan and Kuwait. Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer and Foreign Minister Heiko Maas wrote to lawmakers that the troops at the bases in Baghdad and Taji will be “temporarily thinned out,” news agency dpa reported.

The two officials stressed that talks would continue with the Iraqi government on a continuation of the mission to train Iraqi troops. The majority of Germany’s troops are not stationed in Taji and Baghdad but elsewhere in Iraq.

8:30 a.m.

The leader of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard has threatened to “set ablaze” places supported by the United States over the killing of a top Iranian general in a U.S. airstrike last week, sparking cries from the crowd of supporters of “Death to Israel!”

Hossein Salami made the pledge Tuesday before a crowd of thousands in a central square in Kerman, the hometown of the slain Gen. Qassem Soleimani. His vow mirrored the demands of top Iranian officials for retaliation against America for a slaying that’s drastically raised tensions across the Middle East.

Mourners carried posters bearing the image of Soleimani, a man whose slaying prompted Iran’s supreme leader to weep over his casket on Monday as a crowd said by police to be in the millions filled Tehran streets.