Hassan Rouhani, who has led Iran since 2013, gave a defiant response to Donald Trump’s criticism of the country’s nuclear weapons program amid accusations he has been too eager to appease the West over the course of his presidency.
Addressing an event showcasing locally built military technology, broadcast on state television, Rouhani said: “The strengthening of the capability of the Iranian armed forces is only for defending the country and we will ask no one’s permission to build up the armed forces, and to build missiles and aircraft.”
The president added that Iran has never had “aggressive aims, but peace is not a one-way road and if we decide to be peaceful, the other party may not”, and said there is a “need for vigilance”.
Rouhani’s words come weeks before Iran’s presidential election, where he hopes to secure another four-year term.
But opponents have accused him of buckling to the demands of Western countries after he agreed to curb Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions.
Rouhani's comments come in response to Trump's criticisms of Iran's weapons progra,
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Donald Trump repeatedly criticised Iran’s nuclear deal – which aims to limit its ability to build more weapons – and he vowed during his presidential campaign to stop the country’s nuclear arsenal altogether.
After it test-fired a new ballistic missile in January, the US President tweeted that Iran was “playing with fire”.
Iran pledged to retaliate by blacklisting American nationals and companies it claimed gave support to terrorists.
Rouhani said Iran's weapons developments were defensive
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The Iranian foreign ministry said: “The Islamic Republic will proportionately and reciprocally confront any action that targets the Iranian people’s interests.”
A bill to impose fresh sanctions on Iran over ballistic missiles launched and other non-nuclear activities has been delayed in the US Senate over concerns about the upcoming election.
Iran has said missiles tests are not covered in the nuclear deal.