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DUBAI (Reuters) – Iran displayed a surface-to-surface ballistic missile on Thursday that Defense Minister Amir Hatami said had a range of 870 miles and a new cruise missile, ignoring U.S. demands that Tehran halt its missile program.
“The surface-to-surface missile, called martyr Qassem Soleimani, has a range of 1,400 kilometers and the cruise missile, called martyr Abu Mahdi, has a range of over 1,000 kilometers,” Mr. Hatami said in a televised speech.
Pictures of the missiles were shown on state TV, which it said was “the newest Iranian cruise missile that will further strengthen Iran’s deterrence power.”
Soleimani, head of Iran’s elite Quds Force, and Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis were killed in January in a U.S. strike on their convoy in Baghdad’s airport.
“Missiles and particularly cruise missiles are very important for us…the fact that we have increased the range from 300 to 1,000 [km] in less than two years is a great achievement,” said Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.
“Our military might and missile programs are defensive.”
The announcement comes as Washington is pushing to extend a UN-imposed arms embargo against Iran, which is due to expire in October under Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.
Tensions have been high between Tehran and Washington since 2018, when President Donald Trump pulled out the United States from the deal and reimposed crippling sanctions on Iran.
Washington says its aim is to force Tehran to agree a broader deal that puts stricter limits on its nuclear work, curbs its ballistic missile program and ends its regional proxy wars. Iran has rejected talks as long as U.S. sanctions remain in place.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Wednesday Mr. Trump has directed him to trigger “snapback”—a return of all U.S. sanctions on Iran—at the UN Security Council in New York on Thursday, after the council rejected Washington’s bid to extend Tehran’s arms embargo.