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Khamenei Urges Iran Armed Forces To Bolster Capabilities


Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei speaks at a meeting in Tehran in August.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has called on his country's armed forces to bolster their defense capacities, while also playing down the possibility of war breaking out.

Khamenei, in comments to military commanders, "emphasized that based on political calculations there is no likelihood of a military war but added that the armed forces must be vigilant...and raise their personnel and equipment capacities," his official website said on September 2.

The remarks came a day after Iran announced plans to increase its ballistic- and cruise-missile capacity and acquire modern jet fighters and submarines amid rising tensions with the United States.

Khamenei's website said the meeting with military commanders took place to mark Iran's Air Defense Day.

A war of words has intensified with the United States since President Donald Trump pulled out of the landmark 2015 nuclear deal that Iran signed with six world powers.

Trump complained that the deal was not tough enough and that Tehran was violating the spirit of the accord by continuing to develop ballistic missiles and by supporting militant activity in the region. The deal gave Iran some relief from sanctions in return for curbs on its nuclear program.

The United States and its Western allies have also demanded that Iran end its military support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in that country's seven-year civil war.

And Reuters on August 31 cited three Iranian officials, two Iraqi intelligence sources, and two Western intelligence sources in reporting that Iran had sent short-range ballistic missiles to its Shi'ite militia allies in Iraq and is developing capacity to allow them to build missiles there.

Tehran has denied it has transferred missiles to Iraq or that it is assisting insurgents in the region and has said its nuclear program is strictly for civilian purposes.

Separately, Iranian state media reported that British Minister of State for the Middle East Alistair Burt held talks in Iran on September 2 as Tehran said European states should take action if they wanted to save the nuclear deal.

Iran has called on the European signees -- Britain, France, and Germany -- to help Tehran offset some of the financial damage caused by the U.S. pullout of the deal and the reimposition of sanctions.

The move has been deepening a financial crisis in Iran that has sent its currency tumbling, leading to increased antigovernment street protests in many cities.

Further U.S. sanctions are due in November, including measures to prevent Iran from selling oil.

"It is time for the Europeans to act in addition to voicing their political commitment," IRNA quoted Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif as saying.

"These measures may be costly, but if countries want to reap benefits and if they believe the nuclear accord is an international achievement, they should be ready to keep these achievements," he added.

A day earlier, Iran dismissed comments by French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian that Iran "cannot avoid" entering talks on its ballistic-missile arsenal, its nuclear plans, and its role in wars in Syria and Yemen.

State media reported that Zarif had spoken by phone with Le Drian, saying they discussed bilateral ties, the nuclear deal, and regional issues.

Before his visit, Burt said, "As long as Iran meets its commitments under the deal, we remain committed to it as we believe it is the best way to ensure a safe, secure future for the region."

Britain is also seeking the release of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British-Iranian aid worker and project manager with the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

She was arrested in April 2016 at a Tehran airport and is serving a five-year sentence after being convicted of plotting against the Iranian government, a charge denied by her family and the foundation.

With reporting by Reuters, IRNA, and AFP
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