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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 17 December 2018

 Iran will strengthen missiles despite US criticism

"When it comes to defending our country, we will ask nobody for their permission." Rouhani tells the nation on live TV

At the annual military parade on September 22, 2017 in Tehran, marking the anniversary of the outbreak of the 1980-88 war with Iraq, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani tells the nation Iran will boost its ballistic missiles, regardless of international objections. AFP
At the annual military parade on September 22, 2017 in Tehran, marking the anniversary of the outbreak of the 1980-88 war with Iraq, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani tells the nation Iran will boost its ballistic missiles, regardless of international objections. AFP

President Hassan Rouhani of Iran on Friday vowed that the country would boost its ballistic missile capabilities despite criticism from the United States and France.

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," Mr 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."

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 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. President Emmanuel Macron said the deal could be expanded to ban missile tests and cut a clause in the nuclear agreement that would see Iran resuming some uranium enrichment from 2025. But even he insisted that the core deal should not be dumped.

- New missile displayed -

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

"The Khoramshahr missile has a range of 2,000 kilometres and can carry multiple warheads," said General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, aerospace chief of the Revolutionary Guards, according to the official IRNA news agency.

Iran says all of its missiles are designed to carry only conventional warheads and has limited their range to a maximum of 2,000 kilometres, although commanders say they have the technology to go further. That makes them only medium-range but still sufficient to reach Israel or US bases in the Gulf.

Thus far, the UN nuclear watchdog and the US state department have reported that Tehran has complied with the terms of the nuclear deal. But President Trump, who this week described the deal as an "embarrassment", is due to report to the US Congress on October 15 on whether or not he believes that Iran is in compliance.If, as now appears increasingly likely, he decides that it is not, it could open the way for renewed US sanctions and perhaps the collapse of the agreement

On Wednesday, MrTrump said he had made his decision but was not yet ready to reveal it.

Washington has also criticised what it says is Tehran's failure to meet expectations that it would play a more stabilising role in the Middle East.

"Regrettably, since the agreement was confirmed we have seen anything but a more peaceful, stable region and this is a real issue," secretary of state Rex Tillerson said at the United Nations.

Washington has been particularly concerned about Iran's heavy intervention in Syria on the side of the government of President Bashar Al Assad and its support for Shiite rebels in Yemen who control the capital in defiance of its Saudi-backed government.

But Rouhani ruled out any change of policy in the region.

"Whether you like it or not, we are going to defend the oppressed peoples of Yemen, Palestine and Syria," he said.