Iran says country won’t up missile range
LONDON, Jan 29, (Agencies): Iran on Tuesday dismissed pressure from France and other Western powers for talks over its ballistic missile programme, but said it had no plans to increase the range of the weapons.
France said last week it was ready to impose further sanctions on Iran if no progress was made in talks about the missiles, described by Tehran as defensive but seen in the West as a destabilising factor in a volatile region. “Negotiations over Iran’s missile and defensive capabilities are not acceptable in any way,” Major General Hassan Firouzabadi, a top adviser to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, was quoted as saying by the IRNA news agency.
He said French leaders were only raising the issue to distract attention from anti-government demonstrations in their country. Iran on Monday denied that it was holding any talks with France about the missiles.
US President Donald Trump pulled out of a nuclear deal with Iran in May and reimposed sanctions, saying the accord did not address the missiles and what he saw as the Islamic republic’s malign influence on the region. France, along with other signatories, stuck with the accord, under which Iran agreed to curb its nuclear work in exchange for sanctions relief.
But Paris and other European powers have also raised concerns about the missiles, fearing they could one day reach their territories. “The enemies say Iran’s missile power should be eliminated, but we have repeatedly said our missile capabilities are not negotiable,” Iranian Defence Minister Amir Hatami was quoted as saying by Tasnim news agency, using a phrase usually applied to the United States and Israel. The secretary of Iran’s National Security Council said Iran would keep working to improve the missiles’ accuracy. “Iran has no scientific or operational restriction for increasing the range of its military missiles, but based on its defensive doctrine, it is continuously working on increasing the precision of the missiles, and has no intention to increase their range,” Ali Shamkhani, another close aide to Khamenei, was quoted as saying by state broadcaster IRIB.
In November 2017, the deputy head of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards warned that it would increase the range of its missiles beyond 2,000 kms, if Europe threatened Iran. A UN Security Council resolution that accompanied the 2015 nuclear deal “called upon” Tehran to refrain for up to eight years from work on ballistic missiles designed to deliver nuclear weapons. But Iran said that call did not amount to a binding order and has denied that its missiles are capable of carrying nuclear warheads. Washington has also told Tehran to stop developing satellite-launching technology, saying it was concerned that the same gear could also be used to launch warheads. Shamkhani said Iran would keep working on the technology “to improve the quality of people’s lives and increase the country’s technological prowess.”
Telecoms Minister Mohammad Javad Azari-Jahromi said on Tuesday that an Iranian satellite, called Friendship, will be launched soon. Another launch failed earlier this month. Meanwhile, the European Union is on the verge of launching an alternative channel to send money to Iran that would sidestep US sanctions against the Islamic republic, Germany’s foreign minister said Monday. The “special purpose vehicle,” or SPV, is part of EU efforts to keep alive an international agreement aimed at curbing Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
The future of the UN Security Council underwritten pact was thrown into doubt when Trump pulled out last year slamming it as a “horrible, one-sided deal.” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told reporters in Brussels that “as far as the special purpose vehicle is concerned: it will be registered, it has not yet been registered, but I would say that the implementation of our plan is imminent.” Maas said the EU’s aim is to ensure that “business not sanctioned by the US can be upheld, and there is a suitable instrument for international payments.” He said that Germany has been working notably with Britain and France but also other EU partners in recent months to set it up, without providing details.
EU member country envoys discussed Iran Monday, but didn’t announce the SPV’s completion. It is likely to be discussed when EU foreign ministers meet over two days in Romania from Thursday. Senior EU officials have been saying for weeks that the financing mechanism would be up and running soon, but they have hesitated to provide details amid European concern that Trump would target the country where it is based and any others taking part. The White House has been warning the Europeans that they could face stiff fines and penalties should they try to circumvent the sanctions.
Still, the EU insists that the nuclear deal is vital to regional and global security. The bloc has already introduced measures to stop European companies from complying with the US sanctions without authorization from Brussels. The measures block the effect of any US court action in Europe and allow European firms to recover damages arising from the sanctions from anyone who causes them.