Reported US plans for new sanctions on international companies and individuals over Tehran's ballistic missile program are arbitrary and illegal, Iran said on Thursday.
"As we have declared to the American government … Iran's missile program has no connection to the (nuclear) agreement," state television quoted Foreign Ministry spokesman Hossein Jaber Ansari as saying.
In Washington, sources familiar with the situation said on Wednesday the US government was preparing the sanctions, which the Wall Street Journal said would target about 12 companies and individuals in Iran, Hong Kong and the United Arab Emirates for their suspected role in developing Iran's missile program.
"Iran will resolutely respond to any interfering action by America against its defensive programs," said Jaber Ansari, rejecting any new sanctions as "arbitrary and illegal".
US officials have said the Treasury Department retains a right under July's landmark nuclear agreement between Iran and six world powers, including Washington, to blacklist Iranian entities suspected of involvement in missile development, the WSJ said.
Iranian officials have said the supreme leader would view such penalties as violating the nuclear accord.
A team of United Nations (UN) sanctions monitors said in a confidential report seen by Reuters on December 15 that the medium-range Emad rocket that Iran tested on October 10 was a ballistic missile capable of delivering a nuclear warhead, making it a violation of a UN Security Council resolution.
Ballistic missile tests by Iran are banned under Security Council resolution 1929, which dates from 2010 and remains valid until the July nuclear deal between Iran and world powers goes into effect.
A few days after the controversial test, an Iranian news outlet broadcast images of an underground missile facility that was said to be one of many spread throughout the country.
Images showed soldiers lined up along a row of vehicles carrying ballistic missiles as men appearing to be high-ranking officers walked by. Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh — head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Aerospace Force which unveiled the facility — described the missiles on display as the latest innovations in Iranian ballistic missile technology, and suggested they represented Iran's military options in the face of perceived threats from Western countries.
Once the July deal takes effect, Iran will still be "called upon" not to undertake any ballistic missiles work designed to deliver nuclear weapons for a period of up to eight years, according to a Security Council resolution adopted in July right after the nuclear deal.
Iran says the resolution would only ban missiles "designed" to carry a nuclear warhead, not "capable of," so it would not affect its military program as Tehran does not pursues nuclear weapons. Iran has called Emad a "conventional missile".
In another indication of rising tension on Thursday, US military officials said Revolutionary Guard vessels had fired rockets close to US warships as they were entering the Gulf in the Strait of Hormuz. Iran denied it, saying its military were not currently doing any exercises in the Strait.
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Photos via Fars News Agency