Iran’s Rouhani vows to strengthen missiles despite US warnings

Tehran (AFP) – President Hassan Rouhani vowed on Friday that Iran would boost its missile capabilities despite warnings from Washington that it is ready to ditch a landmark nuclear deal over the issue.

His comments came as Iran displayed a new missile at a military parade marking the anniversary of the outbreak of its devastating 1980-1988 war with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.

“Whether you like it or not, we are going to strengthen our military capabilities which are necessary for deterrence,” Rouhani said in a speech broadcast live on state television.

“We will strengthen not only our missiles but also our air, land and sea forces… When it comes to defending our country, we will ask nobody for their permission.”

Iran has said repeatedly that it has no choice but to boost its defences as its regional rivals Israel and Saudi Arabia sign huge arms contracts with Washington and other Western governments.

Rouhani hit out at those who “create problems for the peoples of our region every day and boast of selling arms to the bloodthirsty Zionist regime which has been attacking the peoples of our region for 70 years like a cancerous tumour.”

Criticism by the Donald Trump administration of a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and major powers, including the United States, has focused heavily on Tehran’s continuing missile programme.

Tehran says that the missiles are entirely legitimate under the terms of the deal as they are not designed to carry a nuclear warhead.

But Washington says they breach the spirit of the agreement as they have the potential to carry a nuclear warhead and has imposed new sanctions over Tehran’s continuing launches and tests.

There has been some sympathy for the US position from France, whose President Emmanuel Macron said the deal could be expanded to ban missile tests and cut a sunset clause in the nuclear agreement that would see Iran resume some uranium enrichment from 2025.

But even he insisted that the core deal not be dumped.

– New missile displayed –

Iran showed off a new missile, named Khoramshahr after a southwestern city, at an anniversary military parade in the capital.

“The Khoramshahr missile has a range of 2,000 kilometres (1,250 miles) and can carry multiple warheads,” the official IRNA news agency quoted Revolutionary Guards aerospace chief General Amir Ali Hajizadeh as saying.

Iran says all of its missiles are designed to carry conventional warheads only and has limited their range to a maximum of 2,000 kilometres, although commanders say…

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