Iran’s defense minister rejects any deal on missile program

International

Shiite Houthi tribesmen hold their weapons during a tribal gathering showing support for the Houthi movement, in Sanaa, Yemen, Saturday Sept. 21, 2019. Yemen’s Houthi rebels said late Friday night that they were halting drone and missile attacks against Saudi Arabia, one week after they claimed responsibility for a strike that crippled a key oil facility in the kingdom. (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed)

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran’s defense minister Wednesday rejected the idea of a deal with world powers over the country’s missile program.

The official IRNA news agency quoted Gen. Amir Hatami as saying that any deal with the United States over Iran’s “missile power” would damage the country’s capabilities. He said Iran’s leaders all support improving the missile program.

Tehran long has insisted its ballistic missile program is non-negotiable. President Donald Trump, however, cited it as a reason for unilaterally withdrawing the U.S. from the nuclear deal between Iran and Western powers over a year ago.

Hatami’s remarks come as the U.S. and its allies say Iran is behind a major drone-and-missile strike on Saudi Arabia’s oil industry. Iran has denied the allegations, saying any strikes by the U.S. or Saudi Arabia will lead to “all-out war.”

Separately, the chief of the powerful Revolutionary Guard in charge of the country’s missile program, Gen. Hossein Salami, was quoted by the semi-official Tasnim news agency as saying Wednesday that Iran has shown self-restraint despite the capabilities of its military, including its missile program.

“We are not looking for trouble but we will respond to troublemakers,” he said.

Referring to Iran-backed Houthi rebel attacks on Saudi Arabia, Salami said Iran has improved its military power to the extent that other countries blame it for actions carried out by the rebels themselves.

“The enemy assumes that we are in charge of any sophisticated job,” he said. Without elaborating, he added that the Houthis were capable of “changing the entire field of war.”

Iran has medium-range surface-to-surface missiles with a range up to 2,000 kilometers (1,250 miles) that can reach archenemy Israel and U.S. bases in the region.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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