July 31, 2019 / 10:07 AM / 22 days ago

Defence minister says it's 'normal' for Iran to test missiles

FILE PHOTO - Iranian Defence Minister Amir Hatami adjusts a headphone during the annual Moscow Conference on International Security (MCIS) in Moscow, Russia April 4, 2018. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin

DUBAI (Reuters) - Iran’s defence minister said on Wednesday it was “normal” for the country to test missiles as part of its defence research, Iranian media reported, after Washington said Tehran had test-fired a medium-range missile last week.

Brigadier General Amir Hatami stopped short of explicitly confirming the test. A U.S. defence official said last week Iran had launched what appeared to be a medium-range ballistic missile that travelled some 1,000 km (620 miles), and added that the test by Washington’s arch-foe in the Middle East posed no threat to shipping or U.S. personnel in the region.

“Such things are normal across the world,” Hatami was quoted by the semi-official news agency ISNA as saying, after being asked about the reported missile test.

“The research programmes of the armed forces are drawn up and carried out every year...including missile tests.”

U.S. President Donald Trump left world powers’ 2015 nuclear deal with Iran last year, arguing that he wanted a wider accord that not only limited Iran’s nuclear activity but also curbed its ballistic missile programme and reined in its support for proxies in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Lebanon. Trump tightened sanctions on Iran in May to try to scuttle its oil exports.

Iran has ruled out talks with Washington over its military capabilities, particularly the missile programme that it says has only defence and deterrent purposes. The Islamic Republic denied that its missiles are capable of being tipped with nuclear warheads and says its nuclear programme is peaceful.

On Saturday, Iran said missile tests were part of its defensive needs and were not directed against any country, without confirming last Wednesday’s reported test.

Reporting by Dubai newsroom; Editing by Mark Heinrich

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