Iran's top leader on Wednesday said missiles were key to the Islamic Republic's future, offering support to the hardline Revolutionary Guards that have drawn criticism from the West for testing ballistic missiles.
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei supported last year's nuclear deal with world powers but has since called for Iran to avoid further rapprochement with the United States and its allies, and maintain its economic and military strength.
"Those who say the future is in negotiations, not in missiles, are either ignorant or traitors," Khamenei, who has the final say on all matters of state, was quoted as saying by his website.
"If the Islamic Republic seeks negotiations but has no defensive power, it would have to back down against threats from any weak country."
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on Wednesday that Iran's ballistic missile had caused "alarm" and it would be up to the major powers to decide whether fresh sanctions should be applied.
Ban, speaking to reporters in Geneva on the sidelines of a conference on Syrian refugees, said: "Out of this agreement (with major powers), now Iranians have launched ballistic missiles. It is true that that has caused alarm and concern.
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"But what kinds of sanctions, what kind of measures should be applied is up to the Security Council members," he said.
Khamenei's comments may have been directed at former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the de facto leader of a more moderate political alliance, who last week tweeted "the future is in dialogue, not missiles".
Iran's Revolutionary Guards conducted ballistic missile tests earlier this month, in what they said was a demonstration of Iran's non-nuclear deterrent power.
The US and several European powers said the tests defied a UN Security Council resolution that calls on Iran not to test nuclear-capable missiles, in a joint letter seen by Reuters on Tuesday.
But Russia, a veto-wielding permanent member of the Security Council, said the tests did not violate Resolution 2231. Iran has consistently denied that its missiles are designed to carry nuclear weapons.
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