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Iran responds to US actions by boosting missile power: Zarif

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif says the Islamic Republic will counter the recent US measures against Iran by further boosting its missile capabilities.

“We will respond to recent US measures against Iran’s missile program by further boosting our missile power,” Zarif said on Saturday.

He added that Tehran has no limitations on developing its missile program “because this program has nothing to do with nuclear weapons.”

In line with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s order, Iran will continue to enhance its missile capabilities, Zarif stressed.

In an order to Iran’s Defense Minister Brigadier General Hossein Dehqan on December 31, 2015, Rouhani urged acceleration in the production of “various types of missiles” needed to improve the country’s defense capabilities..

A long-range Qadr ballistic missile is launched in the Alborz mountain range in northern Iran on March 9, 2016. ©AFP 

On Thursday, the US Treasury Department blacklisted two Iranian companies claiming that the firms backed Iran's ballistic missile program. Washington also claimed that the companies are working for an industrial group, which the US alleges is in charge of Iran’s ballistic missile program.

The blacklisting came after the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) successfully test-fired two more ballistic missiles on March 9 as part of military drills to assess the IRGC's capabilities. The missiles dubbed Qadr-H and Qadr-F were fired during large-scale drills, code-named Eqtedar-e-Velayat.

On March 8, Iran fired another ballistic missile called Qiam from silo-based launchers in different locations across the country.

A handout picture released on March 8, 2016 by Sepah News, shows a ballistic missile being launched during a test in an undisclosed location in Iran. ©AFP

Zarif, who was accompanying Iran's President Hassan Rouhani in his two-day visit to Pakistan, also said comments by the US presidential candidates regarding the Islamic Republic's missile program should not be taken seriously.

He added that personal views of the person in charge will not change the fact that Washington is legally bound to respect the nuclear agreement, dubbed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), reached between Iran and the six world powers in July 2015.

The US administration should comply with its obligations in practice, Zarif said, stressing that some US presidential candidates, under the influence of the Zionist lobby, are making such comments against Iran which should not be heeded.

Last week, US presidential candidates took the stage at the 2016 American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) policy conference to voice unconditional support for the Israeli regime in an apparent attempt to attract more campaign funding from the influential Zionist lobby in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.

To get the green light, the hopefuls voiced support for Israel by attacking Iran and Palestine more than ever before.

Republican hopeful Donald Trump said he would end the JCPOA, calling the agreement “catastrophic.”

"My number one priority is to dismantle the disastrous deal with Iran," he said, adding, "I have been in business a long time. I know deal making. And let me tell you, this deal is catastrophic. For America, for Israel and for the whole of the Middle East."

Ted Cruz also did his best not to fall behind in the race to win Israel’s support, saying, “On the first day in office, I will rip this catastrophic Iranian nuclear deal to shreds.”

On Iran's recent missile tests, the Texas senator said, “If I am president, and Iran launches a missile test, we will shoot that missile down.”

Republicans claim that Tehran’s missile program poses a threat to global security, while Iran categorically denies the claim, arguing that it is solely defensive.

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