OSLO (Reuters) – Iran is prepared to work on French proposals to salvage the international nuclear deal that Tehran signed with world powers in 2015 but it will not tolerate U.S. interference in the Gulf, its foreign minister said on Thursday.
At a time of heightened friction between Tehran and Washington, Iran also on Thursday displayed what it described as a domestically built long-range, surface-to-air missile air defence system.
The United State abandoned the international nuclear deal in May last year and stepped up sanctions on the Islamic Republic.
In an effort to prop up the agreement, French President Emmanuel Macron offered on Wednesday to either soften sanctions on Iran or provide a compensation mechanism “to enable the Iranian people to live better” in return for full compliance with the pact.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, speaking at the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs, said he was looking forward to having a serious conversation with Macron in Paris on Friday.
“There are proposals on the table, both from the French and the Iranian side, and we are going to work on those proposals tomorrow,” he said
Zarif also warned against U.S. efforts to create a security mission, which so far Britain, Australia and Bahrain have joined, to guard shipping in the Strait of Hormuz, a vital gateway for global oil supplies.
“It’s clear that the U.S.’ intention..(of having a) naval presence in the Persian Gulf is to counter Iran.. Don’t expect us to remain quiet when somebody comes to our waters and threatens us,” Zarif said.
Several international merchant vessels have been attacked in the Gulf in recent months in incidents that have rocked global commodity trading. The United States has blamed Iran, which denies the accusations.
Adding to the fraught mood, British forces seized an Iranian tanker off Gibraltar in July then Iranian Revolutionary Guards detained a British vessel in the Gulf.
In his speech in Oslo, Zarif said Iran would not start a war in the Gulf but it would defend itself.
“Will there be a war in the Persian Gulf? I can tell you that we will not start the war…but we will defend ourselves.”
Meanwhile Iranian President Hassan Rouhani attended an unveiling ceremony on Thursday for the mobile Bavar-373 system, a domestically built long-range, surface-to-air missile air defence system.
“With this long-range air defence system, we can detect… targets or planes at more than 300 km (190 miles), lock it at about 250 km, and destroy it at 200 km,” Defence Minister Amir Hatami told state television.
Tehran shot down a U.S. military surveillance drone in the Gulf with a surface-to-air missile in June. It says the drone was over its territory, but Washington says it was in international airspace.
The event took place on Iran’s National Defence Industry Day. Iran has developed a large domestic arms industry in the face of international sanctions and embargoes that have barred it from importing many weapons.
Western military analysts say Iran often exaggerates its weapons capabilities, though concerns about its long-range ballistic missile programme contributed to Washington last year leaving the nuclear deal.
(Reporting by Nerijus Adomaitis in Oslo; Additional reporting by Dubai newsroom; Writing by Tuqa Khalid in Dubai; editing by Angus MacSwan)