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Iran Won't Discuss Missile Program     04/16 06:21

   TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- Tehran will not discuss its ballistic missiles as part 
of ongoing talks with world powers on a final agreement to curb the Iranian 
nuclear program, the country's defense minister said Wednesday.

   The remarks by Gen. Hossein Dehghan came as a rebuff of recent comments by 
U.S. State Department's nuclear negotiator, Wendy Sherman, who said Iran's 
ballistic capabilities should be addressed as part of a comprehensive agreement 
with Iran.

   Iran's ballistic program has also been a concern for the West since 
ballistic missile can be used to deliver nuclear warheads. Iran insists the 
missile program has no nuclear dimensions but is also adamant that its defense 
industry is a "red line" as a topic at the nuclear talks.

   The U.S. has argued that a U.N. Security Council resolution bans Iran from 
"undertaking any activity related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering 
nuclear weapons."

   But Dehghan said Iran's missile program has "nothing to do" with the nuclear 
negotiations and that it has no nuclear dimensions.

   "Iran's missiles are not up for discussion under any circumstances," he told 
the semiofficial Fars news agency. "Iran's missiles are only our concern ... We 
don't accept any intervention from anybody on this issue."

   Tehran has developed a series of missiles, some of which have a range 2,000 
kilometers (1,250 miles) --- enough to reach much of the Middle East. Military 
commanders have described them as a strategic asset and a strong deterrent, 
capable of hitting U.S. bases or Israel in the event of a strike on Iran.

   The Pentagon released a rare public report in 2012 noting significant 
advances in Iran's missiles technology and acknowledging that Tehran has 
improved their accuracy and firing capabilities.

   Iran and six world powers --- the five permanent members of the Security 
Council plus Germany --- reached an interim deal in November that put limits on 
Iran's uranium enrichment program in return for the easing of some sanctions. 
Core sanctions, however, remain in place --- including measures targeting 
Iran's oil exports, the pillar of its economy.

   Talks are ongoing for a final deal that would remove all possibilities that 
the Islamic Republic could use its capabilities to build a nuclear weapon.

   The talks are to continue on May 13 and the future scope of Iran's uranium 
enrichment program has remained the toughest issue.

   In a positive sign, diplomats said Tuesday that the United Nations will 
release a report this week certifying that Iran's ability to make a nuclear 
bomb has been greatly reduced because it has diluted half of its stockpile of 
20-percent enriched uranium, which is only a technical step away from the 
90-percent grade used to arm nuclear weapons

   The move was part of Iran's commitments under the interim deal. The 
diplomats, who are familiar with Iran's adherence to its commitments, demanded 
anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the confidential 
International Atomic Energy Agency report, due for release Wednesday or 
Thursday.


(KA)


 
 
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