Thursday 19 September 2019

Iran warning to US after Macron steps in to salvage deal

Defence: The Iranian surface-to-air missile Bavar 373 system was unveiled yesterday. Photo: AFP Photo / HO / Iranian Presidency
Defence: The Iranian surface-to-air missile Bavar 373 system was unveiled yesterday. Photo: AFP Photo / HO / Iranian Presidency

Nerijus Adomaitis

Iran is prepared to work on French proposals to salvage the international nuclear deal that Tehran signed with world powers in 2015, its foreign minister has said.

But Mohammad Javad Zarif warned that it will not tolerate interference in the Gulf from the US, which abandoned the deal last year.

As tensions remained high between Tehran and Washington, Iran yesterday displayed what it called a domestically built long-range, surface-to-air missile air defence system.

French President Emmanuel Macron stepped in this week in an effort to prop up the nuclear deal, which was designed to curb Iran's ability to develop nuclear weapons.

Mr Macron has offered to either soften sanctions on Iran or provide a compensation mechanism "to enable the Iranian people to live better" in return for full compliance with the pact.

Mr Zarif, speaking at the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs, said he was looking forward to having a serious conversation with Mr Macron in Paris today.

"There are proposals on the table, both from the French and the Iranian side, and we are going to work on those proposals tomorrow," he said.

Mr Zarif also cautioned against the US government's efforts to create a security mission - which so far Britain, Australia and Bahrain have joined - to guard shipping in the Strait of Hormuz, a vital gateway for global oil supplies.

"It's clear that the US intention.. (of having a) naval presence in the Persian Gulf is to counter Iran," he said.

"Don't expect us to remain quiet when somebody comes to our waters and threatens us."

Several merchant vessels have been attacked in the Gulf in recent months in incidents that have rocked global commodity trading.

The United States has blamed Iran, which denies the accusations.

Adding to the fraught mood, British forces seized an Iranian tanker off Gibraltar in July then Iranian Revolutionary Guards detained a British vessel in the Gulf.

In his speech in Oslo, Mr Zarif said Iran would not start a war in the Gulf but it would not be helpless.

"Will there be a war in the Persian Gulf? I can tell you that we will not start the war...but we will defend ourselves," he said.

Meanwhile, the president of Iran, Hassan Rouhani, attended an unveiling ceremony yesterday for the country's new mobile Bavar 373 system.

"With this long-range air defence system, we can detect... targets or planes at more than 300km lock it at about 250km, and destroy it at 200km," Defence Minister Amir Hatami told state TV.

Tehran shot down a US military surveillance drone in the Gulf with a surface-to-air missile in June. It says the drone was over its territory, but Washington says it was in international airspace.

The unveiling of the air defence system took place on Iran's National Defence Industry Day.

Iran has developed a large domestic arms industry in the face of international sanctions that barred it from importing many weapons.

Western military analysts say Iran often exaggerates its weapons capabilities, though concerns about its long-range ballistic missile programme contributed to the US leaving the nuclear deal.

Irish Independent

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