President Hassan Rouhani has rejected US criticism of Iran’s national missile program, vowing that the Islamic Republic will not hesitate to strengthen its defense capabilities against the backdrop of regional and global threats.
At a Tuesday meeting with US media representatives in New York, Rouhani said, “Our people cannot stand by idly in the face of regional threats. Iran’s missiles serve defense purposes.”
Rouhani further said no one can argue that “Iran should not defend itself or manufacture the weapons it needs while regional countries are in possession of state-of-the-art weapons.”
The Iranian nation continues to produce “missiles and defensive weapons,” said the Iranian chief executive, stressing that “the government’s biggest responsibility is to defend people and national security.”
He further said Iran’s national defense program was being subjected to intensive debates amid a deafening silence over the weapons being used on a daily basis against innocent civilians in Yemen.
The Iranian president also touched on Iran’s nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), and noted that the agreement has led to “better interactions between Iran, regional states, the European Union and other countries.”
Rouhani pointed to the accusations by US President Donald Trump’s administration that Iran does not abide by the JCPOA and said, “Under this agreement, the only observatory body is the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), whose inspectors provide reports on a quarterly basis, and no other authority is entitled to talk about Iran’s compliance or noncompliance.”
“All the seven reports of the IAEA have confirmed that Iran has been fully compliant with its obligations,” he emphasized.
“If the US administration breaches its commitments, it will be responsible for all the damage,” Rouhani warned.
In his speech before the 72nd session of the UN General Assembly on Tuesday, Trump called the internationally-negotiated nuclear agreement with Iran an “embarrassment” to the United States.
Iran and the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council – the United States, France, Britain, Russia and China – plus Germany signed the nuclear agreement on July 14, 2015 and started implementing it on January 16, 2016.
Under the JCPOA, Iran undertook to put limitations on its nuclear program in exchange for the removal of nuclear-related sanctions imposed against Tehran.
The White House faces an imminent decision on whether to certify Iran’s compliance with the terms of the nuclear accord.
Rouhani meets more world leaders at UN
On the sidelines of the General Assembly session, Rouhani held separate meetings with world leaders to exchange views on issues of bilateral and global importance.
In one of the meetings, Rouhani sat down with new Pakistani Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi to explore ways of promoting neighborly relations in all areas, especially in the energy sector.
“We are ready to provide energy for Pakistan and we welcome Pakistani investors in this area,” the Iranian president said.
Rouhani also raised concerns about terror attacks by Pakistani-based terror groups against Iranian soil, calling on Islamabad to identify those terrorists and prevent their anti-Iran moves.
Abbasi, for his part, called for promotion of bilateral ties in all areas. He also pledged to follow up on Iran’s border security concerns, noting that the Pakistani army has already been deployed at the border to ensure security there.
Iran-Norway banking ties
In a separate meeting with Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg, Rouhani said there are ample opportunities for the promotion of Iran-Norway economic ties in the post-JCPOA era.
“Expansion of Tehran-Oslo banking ties will lay a solid foundation for accelerating the two countries’ economic relations,” he said.
Solberg, for her part, underlined the country’s commitment to Iran’s nuclear agreement, saying Iran and Norway can cooperate in many areas, as reports confirm that Iran has been abiding by its commitments under the JCPOA.
She pointed to her country’s resolve to make investment in Iran and noted that Oslo is trying to remove the obstacles to closer banking ties to that effect.
Belgium invites Rouhani
At another meeting with Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel, Rouhani welcomed Belgian companies to invest in the Iranian market and underlined the need to provide more facilities for tourists from both countries.
Michel, fort his part, lauded the JCPOA as a great opportunity for the promotion of Iran-Belgium cooperation.
He also invited Rouhani to visit Belgium and described the visit as a “good sign” for the enhancement of Iran’s relations with the 27 EU member states.