UPDATE 1-Iran names deputy Quds Force commander to replace Soleimani after killing

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DUBAI, Jan 3 (Reuters) - Iran’s supreme leader appointed the deputy commander of the Quds Force, Brigadier General Esmail Ghaani, as the replacement for Qassem Soleimani, the former head of the elite force who was killed in a U.S. air strike on Friday, state media reported.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in a statement that programme of the Quds Force, the military unit responsible for projecting Iran’s influence via proxies across the Middle East, “will be unchanged from the time of his predecessor.”

Ghaani became deputy commander of the Quds Force, the overseas arm of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, in 1997 when Soleimani became the Force’s chief commander.

Ghaani was quoted by Iranian media as saying in 2017 that U.S. President Donald Trump’s “threats against Iran will damage America ... We have buried many ... like Trump and know how to fight against America.”

Writing by Parisa Hafezi; Editing by John Stonestreet and Edmund Blair