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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 21 June 2018

Iran says it has 'specific plan to boost missile power'

Defence minister Brigadier General Amir Hatam said Iran would increase the capabilities of its ballistic and cruise missiles, while also focusing on manufacturing heavy aircraft

A long-range S-200 missile is fired during a military drill in the Iranian port city of Bushehr on December 29, 2016. Amir Kholousi, Isna via AP
A long-range S-200 missile is fired during a military drill in the Iranian port city of Bushehr on December 29, 2016. Amir Kholousi, Isna via AP

Iran's defence minister says Tehran has a "specific plan to boost missile power" that includes increasing the capabilities of its ballistic and cruise missiles, as tensions remain high with the United States over its weapons programme.

Newly-appointed Brigadier General Amir Hatam said Iran would also focus on manufacturing heavy aircraft "to bolster its strategic aerial might" and increase its marine forces.

“Defensive diplomacy is an important part of our plans," Brig Gen Amir Hatam, who was promoted from the position of army commander in last month's cabinet reshuffle, told the state-owned Al Alam Arabic news channel on Saturday. "In a region where stability and security are important issues, diplomacy and interaction definitely play a prominent role ".

He said strengthening Iran's military capabilities — including in cyberwarfare — could help create stability in the country and establish mutual trust between Iran and other countries in the region, according to the Iranian Students' News Agency.

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Tehran would also export military equipment “to prevent wars”, he claimed.

Brig Gen Hatami's comments came as the head of the Revolutionary Guard's air defence said Iran had tested its home-grown Bavar-373 air defence system, designed to match the Russian S-300.

"All of its sub-systems have been completed and its missile tests have been conducted," Farzad Esmaili told state broadcaster IRIB, which owns Al Alam, adding that the system was set to be operational by March 2018.

Iran began manufacturing the Bavar-373 after the purchase of the S-300 from Russia was suspended due to international sanctions. The sale resumed following the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers which lifted sanctions.

In separate comments, General Mohammad Baqeri, Iran’s military chief of staff, said on Saturday that an attack on Iran was not only unlikely but also “unwise”, and would “entail heavy costs”.

“In the remote case of an aggression [by enemies], this won’t be on the ground because they would face brave warriors,” Gen Baqeri told Iran’s semi-official Tasnim news agency.

US president Donald Trump has taken a more aggressive approach towards Iran after its test launch of a medium-range missile in February, saying “nothing is off the table” when it comes to dealing with Tehran.

The US imposed unilateral sanctions against Iran in August after saying its testing of ballistic missiles violated the UN resolution that endorsed the 2015 nuclear deal.

The resolution called upon Iran not to undertake activities related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons, but stopped short of explicitly barring such activity.

Tehran denies its missile programme breaches the resolution, saying it is designed for defensive purposes.