DUBAI (Reuters) – Iran said on Monday it was not holding talks with France over its ballistic missile development, after Paris said it was ready to impose more sanctions if European attempts to address the programme in discussions with Tehran made no progress.
“There has been no talks, whether secret or not secret, about our missile programme with France or any other country,” Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi told a weekly news conference, broadcast live on state TV.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Friday France was ready to impose further curbs if no progress was made in talks over the programme, described by Tehran as purely defensive but seen in the West as a destabilising factor in a volatile region.
“Our missile programme is a defensive programme that we only discuss it inside the country. I cannot confirm holding any secret talks with France over our missile programme,” Qasemi said, when asked about Le Drian’s remarks.
“We talk about regional and political issues with France … but our missile capability is not negotiable … we have repeatedly said that during our political talks with France.”
A U.N. Security Council resolution, which enshrined Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with major powers in 2015, “called upon” Tehran to refrain for up to eight years from work on ballistic missiles designed to deliver nuclear weapons.
Iran says its missile tests are not in violation of the resolution and denies its missiles are capable of carrying nuclear warheads.
U.S. President Donald Trump exited the deal in May and reimposed sanctions on Iran that had been lifted under the pact in return for Tehran curbing its nuclear programme.
As the Trump administration accused Iran last year of harbouring nuclear ambitions and fomenting instability in the Middle East, the EU sought dialogue with Tehran.
At meetings between European and Iranian diplomats last year, Britain, France, Germany and Italy, pressed for gestures on Iran’s role in Syria’s war and for help to end the conflict in Yemen.
But several bilateral talks on the ballistic missile programme have yielded no results and France, Britain and Germany are now considering whether to push for sanctions and asset freezes and travel bans on Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and Iranians developing the Islamic Republic’s ballistic missile programme, diplomats have told Reuters.
Trump said the deal, which Tehran and other signatories are trying to salvage it, was flawed as it did not address ballistic missiles or Iran’s support for armed proxies in Syria, Yemen, Lebanon and Iraq.
(This story has been refilled to reinstate Le Drian’s title)
(Writing by Parisa Hafezi; Editing by Alison Williams, William Maclean)