TEHRAN/WASHINGTON – Iran aired fresh footage Tuesday of an underground bunker that houses its latest ballistic missile, which less than a week ago prompted U.S. threats of new sanctions.
State television showed parliament speaker Ali Larijani and Revolutionary Guards officers inspecting the Imad missile, which has a range of 1,700 km (1,020 miles) and is at the center of a dispute over the missile program.
The United States considered — and then shelved — imposing new sanctions following two recent missile tests that a U.N. panel said broke past resolutions aimed at stopping Tehran from developing missiles capable of carrying a nuclear warhead.
If such measures, reportedly targeting companies and individuals in Iran, Hong Kong and the United Arab Emirates with alleged links to the missile program, were imposed they could jeopardize a hard-won nuclear deal due to be finally implemented within weeks.
Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani denounced the possible U.S. sanctions as “hostile and illegal interventions” and ordered his defense minister to expand the missile program.
Larijani was quoted as saying parliament would support an enhanced missile program in a future five-year plan for the country.
State media reported a test of the Imad on Oct. 11 and also that month showed footage of an underground missile base for the first time.
Tehran has always denied seeking an atomic weapon and argues that its missiles have never been designed to, nor ever would, carry a nuclear bomb.
Iran’s ballistic missiles were not within the remit of the nuclear talks that resulted in an accord last July when Tehran agreed to curbs on its atomic program in exchange for a lifting of economic sanctions.
Although Iran’s ultimate authority, supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, explicitly endorsed the nuclear deal in October, he warned that new sanctions, under any pretext, would be a violation.
The accord is due to come into effect on “Implementation Day” expected later this month, or soon after, when U.N. monitors sign off that Iran has applied the agreed restrictions on its nuclear activities.
The U.S. State Department meanwhile said on Tuesday it was in discussions with other U.S. agencies on imposing sanctions against Iran for an Oct. 10 ballistic missile tests by Tehran that violated U.N. Security Council resolutions.
“We are fully prepared to use sanctions with respect to this most recent ballistic missile test (and) are still working through some technical issues there,” spokesman John Kirby said.
Responding to news reports that the State Department stopped sanctions from being imposed because Iran objected, Kirby said: “There continues to be a robust inter-agency discussion about moving forward on sanctions.”
He added: “We don’t take sanctions advice or guidance from Iran or any other country.”