US claims that Tehran smuggled weapons to Iraq and Afghanistan are “ridiculous lies," Iranian Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi said Saturday, the semi-official Fars news agency reported.

"The repeated lies and ridiculous claims made by the (former) US defense minister are meant to justify the wrong policies and measures taken when he was in office," Vahidi was quoted as saying.

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Vahidi was responding to a Wall Street Journal report that said US senior officials accused the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Iran's elite military unit, of sending military weapons to its allies in Iraq and Afghanistan.

According to the report, Iran supplied the Taliban in Afghanistan with weapons that have increased the insurgents capabilities of striking US troops and targets from a farther distance.

The accusation comes as tensions between Tehran and Washington continue to escalate. Last Wednesday, the US Treasury Department said that it would impose greater sanctions on Iran following its support for another ally in the region: Syria.

The report of arms shipments from Iran to groups engaging in military conflict with the US heightens the competition for influence in the region playing out between the US and Iran.

And despite US sanctions on Iran, the Islamic Republic last week carried out a large-scale military drill called "Great Prophet Mohammad War Games 6" to allegedly test out Iran's defense capabilities as well as practice the use of advanced equipment.

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Iranian threat

Besides the US, different nations in the Middle East have expressed growing concern over Iran's military aspirations and regional influence.

Israel last week expanded economic sanctions against Iran, following controversy over the late Israel shipping tycoon Sami Ofer's supposed trade with the Islamic Republic.

Israel has long claimed that Iran arms and funds Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon, two Islamist groups hostile to the Jewish State.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu claimed that the sanctions were "an important step in the struggle against Iran’s nuclear program."

Saudi Arabia also expressed concern over Iran's military projects, including the contentious issue of nuclear arms development. A senior Saudi Arabian official said on Thursday "We cannot live in a situation where Iran has nuclear weapons and we don't. It's as simple as that."

"If Iran develops a nuclear weapon, that will be unacceptable to us and we will have to follow suit," the official said.

Saudi Arabia has long been an opponent of Tehran's nuclear ambitions, and as a Sunni Muslim country sees a Shi'ite Iran as an threat of influence in the region as well.

Saudi Arabia has frequently accused Iran of engaging in pro-Shi'ite activities in neighboring Bahrain, Syria and Lebanon.

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