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The News Line: Feature IRAN READY TO DEFEND MISSILE PROGRAMME! IRAN has rejected any foreign meddling in its domestic affairs, and says it is ready to defend its missile programme ‘with full strength’ in the face of interventionist policies by other states.


‘The missile issue and Iran’s internal affairs are the Iranian government, its leadership, and people’s business,’ Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi told reporters on Monday. When it comes to Iran’s interests, we ourselves are the ones who will take any decisions and we do not need any consultations with any one else – the nation will defend its independence with all might.’

In recent days, the US Trump administration ‘has adopted a hostile rhetoric’ against Iran’s missile work. New US officials have claimed that Iran’s January 29 missile test was ‘in defiance of’ UN Security Council Resolution 2231, which endorsed the 2015 nuclear agreement signed between Tehran and world powers, including Washington.

However, various Iranian officials, including Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and Defence Minister Brigadier General Hossein Dehqan, have rejected the claims, insisting that Iran’s missiles are not designed to carry nuclear warheads and therefore its missile tests do not breach Resolution 2231.

Qassemi further said the Islamic Republic was indifferent to the latest remarks by US officials as it is not the first time an American administration has made ‘contradictory, threatening and antagonistic’ statements against Tehran. He, however, said the new administration is yet to find its feet, and therefore it is too soon to make assessments about it. And he stressed again that Iran’s missiles are for the country’s defence.

Qassemi said Iran also maintains its principled stance of defending Syria’s territorial integrity, government, reiterating support for the restoration of peace and stability to the country. Addressing the issue of talks currently underway in the Kazakh capital of Astana between representatives of Iran, Turkey, and Russia on the situation in Syria, he said the meeting is a technical one among experts aimed at coordinating the countries’ efforts towards the consolidation of the ceasefire in Syria.

The nationwide ceasefire in Syria was brokered by Russia and Turkey with the support of Iran in December 2016. In January, Astana hosted two days of talks between Damascus and opposition groups, with Iran, Russia and Turkey attending the event as mediators.

The official said the Islamic Republic is examining placing some American individuals and institutions on a sanctions list in reaction to the Trump administration’s recent ‘unfair and wrongful’ bans against the Islamic Republic. The sanctions, he said, will be targeting those assisting Takfiri terror groups such as Daesh and the groups that contribute to the Israeli regime’s aggression against Palestinians.

The Iranian spokesman, meanwhile, addressed speculations suggesting that Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is attempting to form a ‘tripartite coalition comprising Israel, the US, and the UK’ against Iran. Netanyahu feels there is an opportunity amid the Trump administration’s anti-Iran stance, and is trying to seize it, Qassemi said.

‘I think this again is among the Zionists’ chimeras and delusions, because neither Iran nor the region’s situation allows for such developments . . . They (the Israelis) try in vain and fail to fulfil their evil goals.’

• Russia has said it disagrees with US President Donald Trump’s characterisation of Iran as a ‘terrorist state’, after he claimed to Fox News on Sunday that Iran was ‘terrorist state number one’. Reacting to that remark on Monday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: ‘We disagree with this postulate’.

US Defence Secretary James Mattis had, last Saturday, called Iran ‘the single biggest state sponsor of terrorism in the world.’ While it was his first comment on Iran since taking over as US defence secretary, the retired US Marines Corps general had made similar remarks on numerous occasions in the past.

Earlier, Trump’s national security adviser, Michael Flynn, had said the US was putting Iran ‘on notice’ over a recent missile test. The US also introduced sanctions on the Islamic Republic over the missile test and what it said was Iran’s continued support for terrorism. Iranian officials have rejected the US accusations and have said Iran is a main country on the battlefront against terrorism.

Iran has been offering advisory military support to Iraq and Syria in the two Arab countries’ fight against terrorism. The Islamic Republic has also been cooperating with Russia in assisting the Syrian government.

Peskov, the Kremlin spokesman, pointed to that cooperation as well as partnership between Tehran and Moscow in other areas, and said Russia is to develop its relations with Iran. ‘You all know that Russia has good relations of partnership with Iran, and we cooperate with that country on a number of issues. ‘We appreciate our relations in the trading and economic sphere and we hope for their further development,’ the Russian official said.

• China has protested to the US for putting Chinese companies and individuals on a new sanctions list targeting Iran. Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said on Monday Beijing had ‘lodged representations’ with Washington after Trump’s administration imposed sanctions on 25 people and entities last Friday for trade with Iran.

‘We have consistently opposed any unilateral sanctions,’ Lu told a regular press briefing in Beijing. Unilateral US sanctions in the past have infuriated China. Last March, Beijing was outraged after the US government punished China’s largest telecom equipment maker ZTE Corps for alleged violations of sanctions on Iran.

China’s Foreign Ministry expressed anger at the action, saying it is ‘opposed to the US citing domestic laws to place sanctions on Chinese enterprises.’ The new US sanctions list includes two Chinese companies and three Chinese people. Those on the list cannot access the US financial system or deal with American companies.

They are subject to secondary sanctions, meaning foreign companies and individuals are prohibited from dealing with them or risk being blacklisted by the United States. China has close economic and diplomatic ties with Tehran. Executives of two Chinese companies included on the list said they had only exported ‘normal’ goods to Iran and didn’t consider they had done anything wrong. Lu said such sanctions, particularly when they harmed the interests of a third party, are ‘not helpful’ in promoting mutual trust.

China has said it is ‘seriously concerned’ about President Donald Trump’s recent hawkish rhetoric on Beijing. Experts say the new administration’s moves are set to further strain relations between China and the US.

• The Islamic Republic of Iran Wrestling Federation (IRIWF) has extended its profound gratitude to the country’s Foreign Ministry over lifting a ban on US wrestlers, and allowing them to take part in the 2017 Freestyle World Cup later this month. ''The IRIWF hereby expresses its warmest thanks for cooperation of the respected (Iranian) Foreign Ministry and all executive organs to review the visa case of the US freestyle wrestling team for the Freestyle World Cup, which is scheduled to be held on February 16 and 17 in the city of Kermanshah,’ the federation wrote in a letter addressed to the Iranian Foreign Ministry.

On Sunday, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi announced that the visa ban against American athletes was dropped following ‘the halt in the implementation of discriminatory restrictive measures against the entry of Iranian citizens into the US as well as requests by the Iran Wrestling Federation and the president of the United World Wrestling.’

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted: ‘Following the court ruling suspending #MuslimBan & the requests from Iranian Wrestling Federation & FILA, US Wrestlers’ visa will be granted.’
 
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