Reuters: Iran’s most powerful leader said on Wednesday that maintaining a strong military was a major objective for the Islamic Republic to deter foreign aggressors.
By Parisa Hafezi
TEHRAN (Reuters) – Iran’s most powerful leader said on Wednesday that maintaining a strong military was a major objective for the Islamic Republic to deter foreign aggressors.
The United States and other Western nations have accused Iran of trying to develop nuclear arms under the veil of a civilian atomic energy programme, a charge Iran strongly denies.
Washington says it wants a diplomatic solution to the dispute, but has not ruled out a military option.
“Experience has proved that a peace-seeking nation … should be able to defend itself against … aggressors,” Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei told a meeting with the armed forces. “Therefore, military power is a major objective for the Iranian nation.”
Iran is wary of U.S. troops in neighbouring Iraq and Afghanistan, but has also warned Washington that American forces in the region are vulnerable.
“The armed forces must be fully prepared to combat any kind of attack by the enemies,” state television quoted Khamenei as saying in his speech in the northern city of Noshahr.
Khamenei sits at the top of Iran’s convoluted political system and has the last word on matters of state, able to overrule President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
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Iran’s recent war games in the Gulf were widely seen as a veiled threat to the vital oil shipping route.
Iran has previously said that it would launch medium-range missiles if attacked over its disputed nuclear programme.
Military experts say Iran’s Shahab-3 missiles have a range of about 2,000 km, meaning Israel, U.S. bases in Iraq all lie within striking distance.
Foreign ministers of the major powers — the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany — agreed on Tuesday to give European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana more time to explore a possible nuclear deal with Iran.
Solana is to renew talks with Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani next week, an Iranian official said.
“After a telephone conversation on Wednesday, Solana and Larijani have decided to meet next week at one of the EU capitals,” a senior official who asked not to be named told Reuters.
Iran ignored an August 31 U.N. Security Council deadline to freeze enrichment, prompting Washington to urge major powers to begin work on readying sanctions against Iran if there is no breakthrough soon.
Russia, China and some European nations want to pursue dialogue with Tehran.