Tehran rejects talks on its ballistic missile program

Iran's minister of defence said on Tuesday that the nation's missile capabilities were non-negotiable. (File/AFP)
Updated 29 January 2019
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Tehran rejects talks on its ballistic missile program

  • US wants Iran to stop developing satellite-launching technology
  • Iran's minister of defense said on Tuesday that the nation's missile capabilities were non-negotiable

LONDON: Iran on Tuesday dismissed pressure from France and other Western powers for talks over its ballistic missile program, but said it had no plans to increase the range of the weapons.

France said last week it was ready to impose further sanctions on Iran if no progress was made in talks about the missiles, described by Tehran as defensive but seen in the West as a destabilizing factor in a volatile region.

“Negotiations over Iran’s missile and defensive capabilities are not acceptable in any way,” Maj. Gen. Hassan Firouzabadi, a top adviser to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, was quoted as saying by the IRNA news agency.

He said French leaders were only raising the issue to distract attention from anti-government demonstrations in their country. Iran on Monday denied that it was holding any talks with France about the missiles.

US President Donald Trump pulled out of a nuclear deal with Iran in May and reimposed sanctions, saying the accord did not address the missiles and what he saw as Tehran’s malign influence on the region.

France, along with other signatories, stuck with the accord, under which Iran agreed to curb its nuclear work in exchange for sanctions relief. But Paris and other European powers have also raised concerns about the missiles, fearing they could one day reach their territories.

“The enemies say Iran’s missile power should be eliminated, but we have repeatedly said our missile capabilities are not negotiable,” Iranian Defense Minister Amir Hatami was quoted as saying by Tasnim news agency, using a phrase usually applied to the US and Israel.

Satellites 

The secretary of Iran’s National Security Council said Iran would keep working to improve the missiles’ accuracy.

“Iran has no scientific or operational restriction for increasing the range of its military missiles, but based on its defensive doctrine, it is continuously working on increasing the precision of the missiles, and has no intention to increase their range,” Ali Shamkhani, another close aide to Khamenei, was quoted as saying by state broadcaster IRIB.

In November 2017, the deputy head of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards warned that it would increase the range of its missiles beyond 2,000 km (1,200 miles), if Europe threatened Iran.

A UN Security Council resolution that accompanied the 2015 nuclear deal “called upon” Tehran to refrain for up to eight years from work on ballistic missiles designed to deliver nuclear weapons.

But Iran said that call did not amount to a binding order and has denied that its missiles are capable of carrying nuclear warheads.

Washington has also told Tehran to stop developing satellite-launching technology, saying it was concerned that the same gear could also be used to launch warheads.

Shamkhani said Iran would keep working on the technology “to improve the quality of people’s lives and increase the country's technological prowess.”

Telecoms Minister Mohammad Javad Azari-Jahromi said on Tuesday that an Iranian satellite, called Friendship, will be launched soon. Another launch failed earlier this month.


Yemen govt, Houthis to start first phase of Hodeidah pullout

Updated 19 February 2019
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Yemen govt, Houthis to start first phase of Hodeidah pullout

  • The UN statement said both sides ‘made important progress on planning for the redeployment of forces as envisaged in the Hodeidah agreement.’
  • Under Phase 1, the Houthis would withdraw from the ports of Hodeidah, Saleef, used for grains, and Ras Isa, used for oil.

NEW YORK: Yemen’s government and the Houthi militias have agreed on the first stage of a mutual pullout of forces from the port city of Hodeidah, a key entry point for humanitarian aid, the United Nations said.

The Iran-aligned Houthi movement and the government agreed in talks in December to withdraw troops by Jan. 7 from Hodeidah under a truce accord aimed at averting a full-scale assault on the port and paving the way for negotiations to end the four-year-old war.

“The parties reached an agreement on Phase 1 of the mutual redeployment of forces,” the UN spokesman’s office said in a statement without giving details on what was agreed.

Under Phase 1, the Houthis would withdraw from the ports of Hodeidah, Saleef, used for grains, and Ras Isa, used for oil. This would be met by a retreat of Saudi-led coalition forces from the eastern outskirts of Hodeidah, where battles raged before a cease-fire went into effect on Dec. 18.

The Houthis occupy Hodeidah, the main entry point for the bulk of Yemen’s commercial and aid imports, while Yemeni government forces loyal to President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi are massed on the outskirts.

The UN statement said the two sides also agreed “in principle” on Phase 2, entailing full redeployment of both parties’ forces in Hodeidah province.

Two sources involved in the negotiations said both sides had yet to agree on a withdrawal timeline or on a mechanism for local forces to take over security at the ports and city.

“The UN is still discussing how to reduce the gap between the two sides on how to choose the forces that will control the city,” one source told Reuters.

The parties could decide within 7-10 days on where they would reposition forces, said the other source, adding that Houthi fighters could pull back as far as 20 km from the port.

Disagreement on withdrawal had delayed opening humanitarian corridors in Yemen.

Under the first phase, the two sides agreed to reopen main roads linking Hodeidah to the Houthi-occupied capital Sanaa and in Yemen’s third city of Taiz, said a UN source.

They also agreed to enable access to Red Sea Mills, which holds some 50,000 tons of World Food Program grain, enough to feed 3.7 million people for a month, the source said. Access to the site has been cut off since September due to fighting.

The Hodeidah truce has largely been respected but there have been intermittent skirmishes in flashpoints on the city’s edges.

Hodeidah became the focus of the war last year when the coalition twice launched an offensive to seize the port and weaken the Houthis by cutting of their main supply line.