Iran has defied US calls to end its missile program and unveiled two new missiles named after Qassem Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, who were killed in a strike by US forces in January.
- Iran’s president Hassan Rouhani assured that the missile program is ‘defensive’
- A UN-imposed arms embargo expires in October
- Donald Trump ordered a ‘snapback’ return of all US sanctions on Iran
Pictures of the missiles were shown on state TV, which said they “will further strengthen Iran’s deterrence power”.
“The surface-to-surface missile, called Martyr Qassem Soleimani, has a range of 1,400 kilometres and the cruise missile, called Martyr Abu Mahdi, has a range of over 1,000km,” said Iranian Defence Minister Amir Hatami.
“Missiles, and particularly cruise missiles, are very important for us … the fact that we have increased the range from 300 to 1,000 in less than two years is a great achievement,” said Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.
“Our military might and missile programmes are defensive.”
Major General Soleimani, head of Iran’s elite Quds Force, and Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis were killed in January in a US strike on their convoy in Baghdad airport.
The announcement comes as Washington pushes to extend a UN-imposed arms embargo against Iran, which is due to expire in October under Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.
Tensions have been high between Tehran and Washington since 2018, when US President Donald Trump pulled the US from the nuclear deal and reimposed crippling sanctions on Iran.
Washington says its aim is to force Tehran to agree a broader deal that puts stricter limits on its nuclear work, curbs its ballistic missile program and ends its regional proxy wars.
Iran has rejected talks as long as US sanctions remain in place.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Wednesday that Trump has directed him to trigger “snapback” — a return of all US sanctions on Iran — at the UN Security Council in New York on Thursday, after the council rejected Washington’s bid to extend Tehran’s arms embargo.