DUBAI (Reuters) -Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Monday that Tehran’s missile programme, seen by Washington as a threat to regional stability, was non-negotiable and that U.S. President-Elect Joe Biden is “well aware of it”.
Biden’s victory has raised the possibility that Washington could rejoin a deal Iran reached with world powers in 2015, and he appears to see a return as a prelude to wider talks on Iran’s nuclear work, its ballistic missiles and regional activities.
But Tehran has ruled out halting its missile programme or changing its regional policy, and instead has demanded a change in U.S. policy, including the lifting of sanctions and compensation for the economic damage caused during the U.S. withdrawal from the nuclear accord.
“The Americans were trying for months to add the missile issue (to the nuclear talks) and this was rejected. (President Donald) Trump was uninformed and did not know about the matter, but Mr. Biden is well aware of the details of the deal,” Rouhani told a televised news conference in Tehran.
“I have not heard Biden say that we have to reach another agreement in order to return to the nuclear deal, that is what Trump says,” Rouhani said.
Iran has one of the biggest missile programmes in the Middle East, regarding such weapons as an important deterrent and retaliatory force against U.S. and other adversaries – primarily Gulf Arabs – in the region in the event of war.
For its part, the West sees Iran’s missiles both as a conventional military threat to regional stability and a possible delivery mechanism for nuclear weapons should Tehran develop them.
Tensions between Washington and Tehran have risen since 2018, when President Donald Trump abandoned the nuclear deal, and restored harsh economic sanctions to pressure Tehran into negotiating stricter curbs on its nuclear program, ballistic missile development and support for regional proxy forces.
(Reporting by Parisa Hafezi; Editing by Ghaida Ghantous, William Maclean)