VATICAN CITY: Pope Francis called for restraint from the United States and Iran on Thursday after a military tit-for-tat that he warned could trigger a“vaster conflict” in the Middle East.

“Particularly troubling are the signals coming from the entire region following the heightening of tensions between Iran and the United States,” the pope said in his annual speech to Vatican diplomats.

Iran on Wednesday launched 22 ballistic missiles at bases in Iraq hosting American and other foreign troops, in a calibrated response to the killing of a top Iranian general in a US air strike last week.

The attacks “risk above all compromising the gradual process of rebuilding in Iraq, as well as setting the groundwork for a vaster conflict that all of us would want to avert,” Francis said. “I therefore renew my appeal that all the interested parties avoid an escalation of the conflict and keep alive the flame of dialogue and self-restraint, in full respect of international law,” he added.

The Argentine also slammed the “general indifference” of the international community towards Yemen, which is suffering “one of the most serious humanitarian crises of recent history”.

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