(photo credit: REUTERS)
Israel did not respond on Wednesday to Iran’s announcement it will unveil an upgrade this year of its Emad ballistic missile whose 1,700 km range puts Israel in its reach.
However, one government official said that Israel is “always carefully watching” Iran’s ballistic missile developments.
The official said that Iranian ballistic missile development was not part of the Iranian nuclear deal, and that this was one of Israel’s objections to the agreement.
Iran’s defense minister was quoted as saying the country would unveil an upgrade of its Emad ballistic missiles, advancing a program that has drawn criticism from the United Nations and sanctions from the United States.
“We will unveil the next generation of Emad with improved precision in the next (Iranian) year (starting from March 20),” Iran’s Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan was quoted as saying by the Fars news agency late on Tuesday.
“The Emad missile is not a violation of the nuclear deal or any UN resolution since we will never use a nuclear warhead (on it). It’s an allegation,” he said, adding that mass production would begin in the near future.
The US says the Emad is capable of carrying a nuclear warhead and the test therefore violated a UN resolution.
Washington imposed fresh sanctions last month against Iranian individuals and businesses linked to the missile program.
Tehran and Moscow have also started talks on the supply of the Russian-made Sukhoi- 30 fighter jets to Iran, Dehghan said.
“We have even decided on the number of Sukhoi-30 fighter jets that we want to buy,” Dehghan said.
Dehghan plans on visiting Moscow early next week to discuss Iran-Russia cooperation, IRNA reported.
The Islamic Republic would also start taking delivery of an advanced Russian S-300 surface- to-air missile defense system in the next two months, Dehghan added - a system that was blocked before last July’s nuclear deal.
However, there have been many false reports of delivery of the S-300 system in recent years with Russia never actually following through.
Iran first tested the Emad missile in October. With improved accuracy over its existing arsenal, Iran says the new missile will be an important part of its conventional deterrent.
The Revolutionary Guards’ second-in-command, Brigadier General Hossein Salami, said on Wednesday that Iran has blocked the overthrow of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
“All big powers were there in Syria. Iran was there too, determined to keep Bashar Assad in power. In the end, they failed to affect regime change,” Salami said, addressing a large gathering of Basij Volunteer Force officials in Tehran, Fars reported.
He also said Palestinian, Lebanese, Iraqi, Syrian, and Yemeni “resistance forces” provide Iran with strategic depth and allies.
Meanwhile, the Iranian ambassador to Russia Mehdi Sanaei announced on Wednesday that Tehran and Moscow signed two deals for opening up a $2.2 billion credit line.
“Documents for financing two contracts on construction of thermal stations and a railroad worth $2.2 b have been initialed,” he said, Russian News Agency Tass reported.
In addition, the Iranian diplomat said that Iran is planning to start the construction of the Bushehr II nuclear power plant in March.
Separately, Behrouz Kamalvandi, the spokesperson for Iran’s atomic energy agency, said on Wednesday that the nuclear deal with world powers would not hamper the country’s nuclear program, Tasnim News Agency reported.
To the contrary, he said, the deal provides the framework for cooperation with countries on obtaining the latest nuclear technology.
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