Iran vows to carry on missile test as tension with US rises

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This video grab still image obtained on July 25, 2017, courtesy of the US Navy, shows an IRGCN boat heading toward the USS Thunderbolt in the Arabian Gulf. — AFP

TEHRAN — A defiant Iran vowed on Saturday to press ahead with its missile program and condemned new US sanctions, as tensions rise after the West hardened its tone against the Islamic republic.

In the latest incident on the ground, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards said the US Navy had approached their patrol vessels in the Gulf and fired flares.

“At 4 p.m. (1130 GMT) on Friday, the supercarrier USS Nimitz and its accompanying warship, while being monitored by the Guards’ frigates, flew a helicopter near the Resalat oil and gas platform and approached the force’s ships,” the paramilitary force said.

“The Americans in a provocative and unprofessional move, sent a warning message to the frigates and fired flares,” it said. The Guards “ignored the unconventional move by the US ships and continued their mission.”

Three days earlier, a US Navy patrol ship fired warning shots at a Guards boat in the Gulf as it closed in on the American vessel, according to US officials.

The Guards denied approaching the US ship in Tuesday’s incident and said it was the American vessel that had been at fault.

There have been a string of close encounters between US ships and Iranian vessels in the Gulf in recent months.

On the political battlefield, Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi told state broadcaster IRIB that Tehran condemned new US sanctions against its missile program, which President Donald Trump is set to sign into law, and vowed to press on.

“We will continue with full power our missile program,” he said. “We consider the action by the US as hostile, reprehensible and unacceptable, and it’s ultimately an effort to weaken the nuclear deal.”

Ghasemi was referring to a 2015 agreement between Iran and US-led world powers that lifted some sanctions on Tehran in return for curbs on the country’s nuclear program.

“The military and missile fields... are our domestic policies and others have no right to intervene or comment on them,” the spokesman said.

The sanctions bill, which also targets Russia and North Korea, was passed by the US Senate on Thursday, two days after being approved by the House of Representatives.

Separately on Friday, Washington imposed new sanctions targeting Iran’s missile program, one day after Tehran tested a satellite-launch rocket.

Iranian state television broadcast footage of the takeoff from the Imam Khomeini space center in Semnan province in the east of the country.

The launch vehicle was capable of propelling a satellite weighing 550 pounds (250 kilograms) into orbit at an altitude of 500 km, it said.

Western governments suspect Iran of trying to develop the technology for longer-range missiles with conventional or nuclear payloads, a charge denied by Tehran, which insists its space program has purely peaceful aims.

In a joint statement, Britain, France, Germany and the US condemned Tehran’s “provocative” and “destabilizing” action, saying the test was in violation of UN Security Council Resolution 2231 that endorsed the nuclear deal.

“We call on Iran not to conduct any further ballistic missile launches and related activities,” they said.

Resolution 2231 called on Iran not to test ballistic missiles capable of carrying a nuclear warhead and an arms embargo has remained in place. — AFP


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