France warns of sanctions – Iran denies link to Bahrain cell

PARIS, March 4, (Agencies): France’s foreign minister told Iran ahead of a visit to Tehran on Monday that the country needed to address concerns over its ballistic missile programme or risked new sanctions. “There are ballistic programmes of missiles that can reach several thousand kilometres which are not compatible with UN Security Council resolutions and exceed the sole need of defending Iran’s borders,” Jean-Yves Le Drian told the Journal du Dimanche newspaper. “If not tackled head on, this country risks new sanctions,” he added.

Earlier, Iran said it will not negotiate over its ballistic missiles until the United States and Europe dismantle nuclear weapons and long-range missiles, a top Iranian military official said on Saturday. Separately, Iran confirmed that the Iranian foreign minister had met his former US counterpart John Kerry on the sidelines of a Munich meeting last month. The New Yorker magazine earlier reported that Kerry had urged Tehran not to abandon a 2015 nuclear deal, despite tensions with the administration of US President Donald Trump. While Iran has accepted curbs on its nuclear work — which it says is for purely peaceful purposes — it has repeatedly refused to discuss its missile programme, something the United States and European countries have called for.

“The condition for negotiating Iran’s missiles is the destruction of the nuclear weapons and long-range missiles of the United States and Europe,” Iranian Armed Forces spokesman Masoud Jazayeri was quoted by the state news agency IRNA as saying. Iran says its missile programme is defensive, and that it is not related to Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers which led to the lifting of sanctions against the country.

Iran denies links
Iran said Sunday that claims Bahrain had arrested a 116-member “terrorist cell” trained by Iran were “baseless”. “Pinning the blame on others and repeating outdated scenarios and baseless accusations against others will not help the Bahraini government resolve its problems with its citizens,” said foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi on the ministry’s website. “We once again advise Bahraini officials to prepare the ground for engagement and dialogue with their own people instead of beefing up security and police arrangements,” he added.

Bahrain’s authorities announced on Saturday that 116 people had been arrested on suspicion of links to Iran’s Revolutionary Guards military force. According to its official BNA news agency, the cell was accused of receiving training in Iran, Iraq and Lebanon. Bahrain, which is governed by a Sunni monarchy, accuses Iran of fomenting trouble and supporting protests among its Shiite citizens, which make up the majority of the population — accusations which are denied by Tehran.

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