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Iran Says Missile Program 'Not Negotiable' But No Plans To Boost Range

Ali Shamkhani, Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council of Iran speaks during the first meeting of national security secretaries of Afghanistan, China, Iran, India and Russia, in Tehran, September 26, 2018

As European countries prepare to announce the establishment of a special payment system to help trade with Iran, Tehran announced on Tuesday that its missile program is not “negotiable”, but it has no plans to increase the range of its missiles.

Western counties, in particular the United States and France have demanded that Iran curtail its missile development development and testing.

But Iran’s defense minister was quoted as saying on Tuesday that his country will not negotiate over its missile program.

“The enemies say Iran’s missile power should be eliminated, but we have repeatedly said our missile capabilities are not negotiable,” Amir Hatami was quoted as saying by Tasnim news agency.

A U.N. Security Council resolution that accompanied the 2015 nuclear deal called upon Tehran to refrain for up to eight years from work on ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons.

Iran insists that the resolution is not binding and its missile are not designed to carry nuclear warheads.

In recent days other military leaders have also issued tough statements regarding Iran's readiness to adopt an "offensive doctrine".

The secretary of Iran's National Security Council also said Iran would keep working to improve the missiles' accuracy.

"Iran has no scientific or operational restriction for increasing the range of its military missiles, but based on its defensive doctrine, it is continuously working on increasing the precision of the missiles, and has no intention to increase their range," Ali Shamkhani, a close aide to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, was quoted as saying by state broadcaster IRIB.

The reference by Shamkhani about the range of Iran’s missiles can be seen as a gesture to mollify European objections to its program.

Iran’s economy is in crisis partly because of crippling U.S. sanctions, imposed after President Donald Trump pulled out of the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran.

Europe opposed the U.S. decision and promised to help Iran maintain international trade by establishing a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV), which is a payment system to circumvent U.S. sanctions.

However, Iran’s missile program and a range of other issues will influence Europe’s decision to make the SPV operational.

Iran has also failed to adopt an anti-corruption law, which would ban financing of terrorism. The adoption of financial reforms is another Western demand, which Iran’s hardliners have been resisting.

With reporting by Reuters