Iran will not stop work on its missile programmes despite threatened new US sanctions designed to slow down work in that field, Defence Minister Hussein Dehghan said Friday, according to media reports.
"The missile programme is our red line and is not up for debate," he was quoted as saying, noting that the programme was part of Iran's internal security apparatus and a vital protection, especially given the threat posed by Islamic State forces in the region.
He noted that the missile programme was in no way linked to talks concluded last year between Iran, the United States and a group of other countries, which laid down a plan to limit Iran's nuclear weapons capabilities.
Nonetheless, Washington has been riled by Iran's ongoing missile tests, which it sees as an incitement. A senior US official said Thursday that the country is preparing fresh sanctions against Iran because of its continued work on the missile programme, evidenced by a successful test in October.
They would be the first sanctions since the nuclear agreement was signed.
The sanctions are to target nearly a dozen firms and individuals in Iran, Hong Kong and the United Arab Emirates for their role in Iran's ballistic missile programme, unnamed US officials told the Wall Street Journal and CNN.
A senior US official confirmed to dpa Thursday that additional sanctions were under consideration, but did not provide details about what those sanctions might entail.
"We've been looking for some time at options for additional actions related to Iran's ballistic missile programme based on our continued concerns about its activities, including the October 10th launch," the official said on condition of anonymity.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif also questioned the US approach to the manner in a New Year's message released on Twitter.
"A lot was accomplished in 2015 with diplomacy," he wrote, referring to the nuclear deal. He went on to say that people should learn from history and "repeat the successes, but not the failures."
Although the nuclear deal provides sanctions relief in exchange for steps to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, it allows sanctions in relation to Tehran's missile programme, the financing of terrorism and human rights violations.
The US declared Iran's October test of a medium-range rocket to be a violation of a UN Security Council resolution.
Iran says the missiles are conventional and cannot carry nuclear payloads, though this has not been confirmed by independent sources.