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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 September 2018

Iran to unveil new fighter jet and develop missiles despite US sanctions

Iran's navy said it mounted a locally built advanced defensive weapons system on one of its warships for the first time

Defence Minister Gen Amir Hatami walks past the missile Fateh-e Mobin, or Bright Conqueror, during inauguration of its production line at an undisclosed location in Iran. Iranian Defense Ministry via AP
Defence Minister Gen Amir Hatami walks past the missile Fateh-e Mobin, or Bright Conqueror, during inauguration of its production line at an undisclosed location in Iran. Iranian Defense Ministry via AP

Iran will this week unveil a new fighter jet and will continue to develop its missile capabilities as a priority, the defence minister said on Saturday, defying the latest US sanctions aimed at curbing Tehran's missile programme and regional influence.

The country's navy also announced on Saturday that it has mounted a locally built advanced defensive weapons system on one of its warships.

In May, President Donald Trump withdrew the US from a 2015 accord between Iran and world powers to reduce Tehran’s nuclear activity in exchange for sanctions relief.

Mr Trump said the deal was deeply flawed as it had not affected Iran’s ballistic missile programme or cut its support for proxies in conflicts in Syria, Iraq and Yemen.

Iran has dismissed any direct talks with Washington to resolve the issues raised by Mr Trump.

"Our top priority has been development of our missile programme. We are in a good position in this field, but we need to develop it," Brig Gen Amir Hatami was quoted as saying by Fars news agency on Saturday.

"We will present a plane on National Defence Industry Day, and people will see it fly, and the equipment designed for it,” Gen Hatami said. Iran celebrates National Defence Industry Day on August 22.

Gen Hatami said that Iran learnt in its war with Iraq that it cannot rely on anyone but itself.

"We saw that wherever we are not capable, no one will have mercy on us," he said.

"Our resources are limited and we are committed to establishing security at a minimum cost.

"We upgrade our missiles according to our enemies' threats and actions, as a deterrent and to give a crushing response to the enemy."

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The defence minister dismissed the idea of an "Arab Nato" — an old concept that has recently resurfaced as Washington tries to push regional countries to accept a greater share of their defence.

"Arab Nato is part of the game of creating discord by the enemy and it's not worth paying attention to," said Gen Hatami.

"It is unlikely that America and the Zionist regime [Israel] would allow Muslim countries to come together. They know well that the aim of Muslim nations is to destroy the Zionist regime and defend Palestine."

In 2013, Iran unveiled what it said was a new, domestically built fighter jet, called Qaher 313, but some western experts expressed doubts about the viability of the aircraft at the time.

The country’s functional air force has been limited to perhaps a few dozen strike aircraft, either Russian or US models acquired before the 1979 revolution.

Iranian Navy Commander Rear Admiral Hossein Khanzadi said on Saturday that "coastal and sea testing of the short range defence Kamand system were concluded successfully, and said this system was mounted … on a warship and will be mounted on a second ship soon", the semi-official Tasnim news agency reported.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guard said this month it held war games in the Gulf aimed at "confronting possible threats" by enemies.

The US military’s Central Command said it had observed increased Iranian naval activity, extending to the Strait of Hormuz — a strategic waterway for oil shipments the Revolutionary Guard has threatened to block.

Iran has developed a large domestic arms industry in the face of international sanctions and embargoes that have barred it from importing many weapons.

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