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Iran condemns new U.S. sanctions, vows to pursue missile program

 (Iranian Defense Ministry website)
(Iranian Defense Ministry website)

Iran defied Washington and condemned new U.S. sanctions over its development of missiles capable of being armed with nuclear warheads.

"We will continue with full power our missile program," Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi told state television IRIB on Saturday, dismissing new sanctions passed by Congress last week as, “hostile, reprehensible and unacceptable.”

“It’s ultimately an effort to weaken the nuclear deal,” Ghasemi said, adding, “The military and missile fields … are our domestic policies and others have no right to intervene or comment on them.”

Iran had agreed to limit its nuclear activities under the 2015 agreement with the U.S. and other world powers in exchange for sanctions relief.

Ghasemi argued Saturday that the U.S. had violated that agreement by linking the missile program to the nuclear deal and restricting Iranian banking activities in the U.S. He argued that Iran’s latest missile tests don't break the agreement because the weapons are defensive.

"The new wave of pressure on missile projects in Iran will push the Islamic theocracy into a corner,” predicted Iran analyst Hojjat Kalashi in Tehran, noting that the government of President Hassan Rouhani, who was reelected in May, is coping with an economic downturn and may step back from the compromise nuclear deal.

The new Iran sanctions bill, which also targets Russia and North Korea, was passed by the House and Senate this week. It would penalize those involved in Iran's ballistic missile program as well as those who do business with them, impose an arms embargo on Iran and label its Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps a terrorist group.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders has said President Trump will sign the bill.

On Friday, the U.S. was joined by Britain, France and Germany in condemning Iran's recent launch of a satellite-carrying rocket and warned that it violated a United Nations resolution implementing the 2015 nuclear deal.

In a joint statement, they urged Iran to stop developing missiles and rockets capable of carrying nuclear warheads that have "a destabilizing impact on the region."

In response to a rocket launch Thursday, the U.S. Treasury Department imposed sanctions on subsidiaries of an Iranian company involved in Tehran's ballistic missile program.

But Nader Karimi Juni, an analyst close to Rouhani’s government, said Iranian leaders don't believe the U.N. and European powers will ultimately back the U.S., and so Iran “will not compromise on missile projects and will remain defiant.”

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