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Iran Criticizes U.S. Missile Deployments In Gulf

TEHRAN (Reuters) -- Iran has accused the United States of seeking to stoke "Iran phobia" in the Middle East by deploying missile-defense systems in the Gulf, and said Tehran enjoyed friendly ties with neighboring states.

U.S. officials said on January 31 that the United States has expanded land- and sea-based missile-defense systems in and around the Gulf to counter what it sees as Iran's growing missile threat.

The deployments include expanded land-based Patriot defensive missile installations in Kuwait, Qatar, UAE, and Bahrain, they said.

"We regard these measures as a conspiracy and a ploy by foreign countries to create a sense of Iran phobia," Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast told state television.

"Because they have lost their presence in Iran, they feel they have no foothold and in order to justify their presence (in the region) they make such an insinuation," he said.

On February 1, the U.S. Defense Department said a U.S. attempt to shoot down a ballistic missile mimicking an attack from Iran had failed after a malfunction in a radar built by Raytheon Co.

The unsuccessful $150 million test over the Pacific Ocean coincided with a Pentagon report that Iran had expanded its ballistic missile capabilities and posed a "significant" threat to U.S. and allied forces in the Middle East region.

The U.S. build-up began under the Bush administration, but has expanded under President Barack Obama, who is pushing for a new round of sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program.

Officials said the expansion was meant to increase protection for U.S. forces and key allies in the Gulf.

Neither the United States nor Israel have ruled out military action if diplomacy fails to resolve the row over Iran's nuclear program, which the West suspects is aimed at making bombs.

Iran says its nuclear work is a peaceful drive for energy generation and has vowed to hit back if attacked. It says its missile programme is defensive in nature.

"We have friendly ties with all the countries of the region and we are of the opinion that regional security can be realized through these countries' collective cooperation," Mehmanparast said.

"The more our country's capability is augmented toward its own defense and that of the countries of the region the more improved regional security will be," he said.

Parliament speaker Ali Larijani also criticized the U.S. move, state broadcaster IRIB reported.

"It is strange that the American officials do not notice that the problem in the region is your [U.S.] presence and the more you deploy artillery [in this region], the more the host countries will be concerned," he told parliament.