Defensive Missile Program Non-Negotiable

Defensive Missile Program Non-Negotiable  Defensive Missile Program Non-Negotiable

Iran's Foreign Ministry denied a report by Reuters claiming that Tehran is open to talks over its missile activities, stressing that the program is for defense purposes only and non-negotiable.

"Iran has in all bilateral diplomatic meetings, including the recent visit of ... [Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad] Zarif to New York, emphasized that its defensive missile program is not negotiable," Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qasemi said on Friday, according to Iranian news agencies.

Earlier in the day, Reuters cited unidentified Iranian and western officials familiar with the alleged overtures as saying that Iran has suggested to six world powers that it may be open to talks about its ballistic missile arsenal, seeking to reduce tension over the disputed program.

Tehran has repeatedly vowed to continue building up its defensive missile capability and dismissed western criticism, with Washington contending that the Islamic Republic's stance violates the "spirit" of the 2015 nuclear deal.

Unfortunately, for the US, the nuclear deal is not demarcated on the lines of body and spirit, and solely outlines the technical obligations of Iran and the commitments of other signatories.

Nevertheless, the unnamed sources claimed that given US President Donald Trump's threats to ditch the deal reached under his predecessor Barack Obama, Tehran had approached the powers recently about possible talks on some "dimensions" of its missile program.

"During their meeting on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly last month, Iran told members of the [world powers] that it could discuss the missile program to remove concerns," an Iranian source with knowledge of the meeting purportedly told Reuters on condition of anonymity. A former US Defense Department official said Iran's overtures had reached Washington in recent weeks.

"Iran has put feelers out saying it is willing to discuss its ballistic missile program and is using contacts ... officials who were 'holdovers' from the Obama administration," the former official claimed.

Iran's reported approach came after Trump called the nuclear accord "an embarrassment" and "the worst deal ever negotiated". He is expected to announce soon that he will decertify the deal, a senior US administration official said on Thursday.

The other five powers are Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China, all of whom have reaffirmed commitment to the deal.

Zarif met his counterparts from the six powers, including US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson for the first time, on the fringes of the UN gathering on Sept. 20.

"The Americans expressed their worries about Iran's missile capability and Zarif said in reply that the program could be discussed," the Iranian source purportedly told Reuters.

A US official with firsthand knowledge of dealings with the Islamic Republic said Zarif had been recycling offers that have been lying dormant on the table for some time.

Another Iranian official purportedly said Tehran would be willing to discuss long-range missiles.

A US official with extensive experience negotiating with Iran said "putting this out there publicly as Zarif has done puts pressure on the [Trump] administration."


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