December 4, 2018 / 12:39 PM / 9 days ago

Iran wants to expand missile range despite U.S. opposition

GENEVA (Reuters) - Iran wants to increase its missiles’ range, a senior military official was quoted as saying on Tuesday, a move that would irk the United States which views Tehran’s weapons programme as a regional security threat.

FILE PHOTO: A display featuring missiles and a portrait of Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is seen at Baharestan Square in Tehran, Iran September 27, 2017. Nazanin Tabatabaee Yazdi/TIMA via REUTERS

U.S. President Donald Trump pulled out of an international nuclear agreement in May and reimposed sanctions on the Islamic Republic, criticising the deal for not including curbs on Iran’s development of ballistic missiles.

“One of our most important programmes is increasing the range of missiles and ammunition,” said the head of the Iranian air force, Brigadier General Aziz Nasirzadeh, according to the semi-official Fars news agency.

“We don’t see any limitations for ourselves in this field.”

Iran’s military has cited 2,000 km (1,240 miles) as the current missile range, and said U.S. bases in Afghanistan, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, plus U.S. aircraft carriers in the Gulf, were within range.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif also defended the missile programme in a Twitter post on Tuesday, in which he said the U.N. Security Council resolution which endorsed the nuclear agreement did not ban Tehran from working on missiles.

“Making a mockery of the UNSC won’t obscure failure to fulfill obligations & to hold US to account over non-compliance. Esp when even US admits that UNSCR2231 does NOT prohibit Iran’s deterrent capabilities. Rather than undermining 2231, better to work towards its adherence by all.” Zarif wrote.

Nasirzadeh did not give details on how far Iran would like to increase that range, according to the Fars report.

Tehran insists its missile programme is purely defensive but has threatened to disrupt oil shipments through the Strait of Hormuz in the Gulf if Washington tries to strangle its exports.

At the weekend, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo condemned what he described as Iran’s testing of a medium-range ballistic missile capable of carrying multiple warheads as a violation of the agreement on Tehran’s nuclear programme.

Iran has repeatedly said its missile programme is not up for negotiation.

Reporting By Babak Dehghanpisheh; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne and Gareth Jones

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