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NUKEWARS
Iran rejects Trump missile warning as relations sour
By Stephane Barbier
Tehran (AFP) Feb 2, 2017


US weighing fresh Iran sanctions
Washington (AFP) Feb 2, 2017 -

Donald Trump's administration appeared poised to levy fresh sanctions on Iran Thursday, the first concrete evidence of the new president's tougher stance.

Hours after Trump and his national security advisor put Iran "on notice" over missile tests and support for Yemeni rebels, sources familiar with White House deliberations said new sanctions are in the works.

The sanctions are likely to be levied on individuals or entities linked to Iran's missile program and will be taken under existing presidential powers.

The measures are likely to replicate actions taken by Barack Obama's administration, which targeted firms and the Revolutionary Guard's missile command after previous tests.

Any move toward broader economic sanctions could risk Iran bolting from a high stakes nuclear deal, which saw Tehran freeze its nuclear program in return for sanctions relief.

Trump has repeatedly trashed the agreement, but senior administration officials have indicated he will respect it, at least for now.

But Trump sounded a bellicose tone Thursday, refusing to rule out military action against Iran, saying "nothing is off the table."

Iran has rejected Trump's warnings as unfounded and "provocative".

The US recently raised alarm at the United Nations over Tehran's Sunday test-firing of a medium range missile.

The White House believes that is contravention of a UN Security Council resolution proscribing missiles that could carry a nuclear device.

Referring to the test, a senior administration official said "ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering a payload of at least 500 kilograms to a range of 300 kilometers are inherently capable of delivering nuclear weapons."

The latest sanctions are designed to show Iran a clean break from the Obama administration, which sought to limit friction.

As Iran has sought to wield its influence from Lebanon to Afghanistan, it has frequently butted up against US interests.

In Iraq, Syria and Yemen Iranian-backed militias have targeted US allies.

While the latest sanctions will not alter that dynamic, the White House is keen to put down a marker.

Aside from a desire for Trump to be seen as backing up his words with action, US officials are also concerned about future Iranian weapons tests.

Tehran is eyeing the development of a space launch vehicle, which, according to a senior administration official, "would be capable of an intercontinental ballistic missile range if it was configured in such a way."

Iran on Thursday rejected a warning from President Donald Trump over its latest missile test as unfounded and "provocative", reflecting growing tensions between Tehran and the new US administration.

Trump is a strident critic of the Islamic republic and a vocal opponent of an international deal that saw Iran curb its nuclear programme in return for sanctions relief.

He said on Thursday that Tehran was now officially "on notice" after Sunday's missile test and said all options were on the table.

"Iran has been formally PUT ON NOTICE for firing a ballistic missile.Should have been thankful for the terrible deal the U.S. made with them!" Trump tweeted, echoing similar comments by National Security Advisor Michael Flynn a day earlier.

Trump told a journalist later the same day that "nothing is off the table" when asked if military action was a possibility.

Flynn insisted that the missile test was "in defiance of UN Security Council Resolution 2231," which calls on Iran not to test missiles capable of delivering a nuclear weapon.

The remarks drew an angry response from Tehran.

"Claims made by US President Donald Trump's National Security Advisor are baseless, repetitive and provocative," Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi said, quoted by state news agency IRNA.

Iran has confirmed that it tested a ballistic missile, but denied that it violated the terms of the nuclear deal.

Tehran says its missiles do not breach UN resolutions because they are for defence purposes only and are not designed to carry nuclear warheads.

The row comes against a backdrop of already difficult relations over Trump's travel ban on citizens from Iran and six other Muslim-majority countries.

- 'Sinister intentions' -

The US warning prompted a defiant response from Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards.

"The number of Iranian missiles, warships and defence missile launchers is growing every day, and the sky, land and sea is under the control of this nation," said General Hossein Salami, the number two in the Guards which is in charge of weapons programmes.

"This is not a land where an outsider can set foot with sinister intentions," he said.

Iran has missiles with a range of up to 2,000 kilometres (1,250 miles), sufficient to reach Israel as well as US bases in the region.

There has been scant detail from the White House as to what its warning over the missile test means in practical terms, and it remains to be seen if Washington will push for new sanctions.

Ghasemi said that the US warning came at a time when "the efforts by the Islamic Republic of Iran in fighting terrorist groups in the Middle East are known to all".

"It is regrettable that the US administration, instead of appreciating the nation of Iran for its continued fight against terrorism, is in practice aiding terrorist groups by repeating baseless claims and adopting unwise measures."

He referred to Syrian rebel groups which "directly or indirectly receive financial, logistic and intelligence support by the US and its partners".

Ghasemi dismissed charges of Iranian meddling in the region, saying Tehran wanted good relations with its neighbours based on "mutual respect and non-interference in countries' domestic affairs."


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Previous Report
NUKEWARS
Trump on Iran: 'Nothing is off the table'
Washington (AFP) Feb 2, 2017
/> US President Donald Trump said Thursday he is not ruling out any options in response to Iran's recent missile test, further raising tensions after saying he was putting the country "on notice." When asked by a journalist whether military action is off the table against Iran, Trump replied, "Nothing is off the table." The comment came hours after Trump had tweeted that Iran was "forma ... read more


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