Defiant Iran pledges to ramp up missile program, in challenge for Obama

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Iran Pledges to Challenge Obama With Missle Program
A series of Iranian officials vowed on Friday to expand Tehran's missile capabilities, a challenge to the United States which has threatened to impose new sanctions even as the vast bulk of its measures against Iran are due to be lifted under a nuclear deal.

"As long as the United States supports Israel we will expand our missile capabilities," the Revolutionary Guards' second-in-command, Brigadier General Hossein Salami, was quoted as saying by the Fars news agency.

"We don't have enough space to store our missiles. All our depots and underground facilities are full," he said in Friday Prayers in Tehran.

Defence Minister Hossein Dehqan said Iran would boost its missile program and had never agreed to restrictions on it.

"Iran's missile capabilities have never been the subject of negotiations with the Americans and will never be," he was quoted as saying by Press TV, an Iranian state channel.

Related: See photos of missile testing:

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Defiant Iran pledges to ramp up missile program, in challenge for Obama
This Thursday, Feb. 25, 2016 photo provided by the U.S. Air Force shows an unarmed Minuteman 3 intercontinental ballistic missile launches during an operational test from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. The unarmed missile roared out of its underground bunker on the California coastline and soared over the Pacific, inscribing the signature of American power amid growing worry about North Korea's pursuit of nuclear weapons capable of reaching U.S. soil.(Staff Sgt. Jim Araos/U.S. Air Force via AP)
FILE - In this Saturday, Feb. 20, 2016 file photo provided by U.S. Air Force, an unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile launches during an operational test at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. Like a giant pen stroke in the sky, an unarmed Minuteman 3 nuclear missile roared out of its underground bunker on the California coastline Friday, Feb. 26, 2016, and soared over the Pacific, inscribing the signature of American power amid growing worry about North Koreaâs pursuit of nuclear weapons capable of reaching U.S. soil. When it comes to deterring an attack by North Korea or other potential adversaries, the missile is the message. (U.S. Air Force via AP, File)
A man watches a TV news program showing a file footage of the missile launch conducted by North Korea, at Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea, Thursday, March 3, 2016. North Korea fired several short-range projectiles into the sea off its east coast Thursday, Seoul officials said, just hours after the U.N. Security Council approved the toughest sanctions on Pyongyang in two decades for its recent nuclear test and long-range rocket launch. The screen reads " North Korea launched missiles." (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
ISRAEL - APRIL 7: In this handout photo provided by the Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), an Arrow anti-missile missile is launched from a testing ground on April 7, 2009 in central Israel. The Defense Ministry confirmed the successful test of the anti-missile system designed to protect the country from attack by Iran. (Photo by IAI via Getty Images)
FILE - In this Sept. 13, 2012 file photo from video provided by ABC15 in Phoenix, the contrail of a Juno ballistic missile fired from Fort Wingate near Gallup, N.M., reflects early morning sunlight high above New Mexico. Authorities across the Southwest are preparing to be inundated with calls and emails from people who might catch a glimpse of the contrail from an early morning missile test Thursday, Dec. 10, 2015. (ABC15 via AP, File)
FILE - In this Sept. 13, 2012 file image from video provided by ABC15 in Phoenix, the contrail of a Juno ballistic missile fired from Fort Wingate near Gallup, N.M., reflects early morning sunlight high above New Mexico. Authorities across the Southwest are preparing to be inundated with calls and emails from people who might catch a glimpse of the contrail from an early morning missile test Thursday, Dec. 10, 2015. (ABC15 via AP, File)
In this photo provided by Vandenberg Air Force Base, an unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile equipped with a test reentry vehicle is launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., on Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2015. The Air Force says the missile carried a test re-entry vehicle that headed for a target area 4,200 miles away near the Marshall Islands in the Pacific Ocean. The Air Force routinely uses Vandenberg to test Minuteman missiles from bases around the country.(Airman 1st Class Ian Dudley/U.S. Air Force via AP)
PAKISTAN, UNDISCLOSED LOCATION - NOVEMBER 17: A photo released by Pakistan army, on November 17, 2014, shows Pakistan army test-fires Shaheen 1A or Hatf IV ballistic missile, a nuclear capable ballistic missile with a range of 900 kilometres, days after testing a similar missile capable of hitting targets as far as 1,500 kilometres, bringing many Indian cities under its range. (Photo by Pakistan Army/Pool/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
This picture released by the official website of the Iranian Defense Ministry on Sunday, Oct. 11, 2015, claims to show the launching of an Emad long-range ballistic surface-to-surface missile in an undisclosed location. Iran successfully test fired a new guided long-range ballistic surface-to-surface missile, state TV reported on Sunday. It was the first such a test since Iran and world powers reach a historical nuclear deal. Iran's Defense Minister Gen. Hossein Dehghan, told the channel that the liquid-fuel missile "will obviously boost the strategic deterrence capability of our armed forces." (Iranian Defense Ministry via AP)
In this photo provided by the U.S. Air Force, an unarmed Minuteman 3 missile launches on Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2015, at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. The Air Force said the missile was launched from California in a test of the intercontinental ballistic missile system. (Joe Davila/U.S. Air Force via AP)
This undated photo provided by the Israel Ministry of Defense shows a test launch of "David's Sling" missile system. Israeli officials said a joint U.S.-Israeli missile defense system has successfully passed a new test this and is expected to be operational next year. (AP Photo/Israel Ministry of Defense)
This photo provided by the Department of Defense U.S. Army White Sands Missile Range shows a NASA Terrier-Black Brant research rocket launching off of a test site located at White Sands Missile Range, in N.M. on Wednesday, Feb. 25, 2015. The purpose of the launch was to study the ionization in space and is designed to reach an altitude of just over 100 miles. (AP Photo/ Department of Defense U.S. Army White Sands Missile Range, Drew Hamilton)
A missile is launched during an Iranian army exercise in central Iran, Thursday, March 14, 2013. Iranian media say the military has test-fired several short-range missiles, including the type Palestinian militant Hamas group used to attack Tel Aviv last November. Thursday's report by the semi-official Fars news agency says the missiles were tested during an army exercise in central Iran. It says the missiles fired were Nazeat-10 and Fajr-5. Iran regularly holds maneuver to test and promote its military power.(AP Photo/Hadi Yazdani)
USA- JANUARY: USS Florida launches a Tomahawk cruise missile during Giant Shadow in the waters off the coast of the Bahamas during January 2003 - Giant Shadow is a Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA),Naval Submarine Forces experiment to test the capabilities of the Navy's future guided missile submarines.(Photo by Ron SACHS/GAMMA/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)
398198 01: A prototype interceptor is launched from the Kwajalein Missile Range December 3, 2001 in Hawaii. The United States military has been testing controversial missile defense shields by successfully shooting down a dummy warhead on an intercontinental ballistic missile over the Pacific Ocean. (Photo by Ballistic Missile Defense Organization/Getty Images)
KWAJELEIN, UNITED STATES: To go with'MARSHALL ISLANDS-US' Undated photo shows a missile being launched at Kwajelein atoll on the Marshall islands. FP reports 14 January 2003 that dispute about the rent the United states pays for this testing range is threatening to derail a one billion, 20-year aid package. Foreign Minister Gerald Zackios said that the Kwajalen is a 'make or break' issue for the Marshall Islands. AFP PHOTO/US ARMY (Photo credit should read AFP/AFP/Getty Images)
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The defiant comments are a challenge for the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama as the United States and European Union plan to dismantle nearly all international sanctions against Iran under the breakthrough nuclear agreement reached in July.

Iran has abided by the main terms of the nuclear deal, which require it to give up material that world powers feared could be used to make an atomic weapon and accept other restrictions on its nuclear program.

But Tehran also test-fired a missile in October, which the United States says would be capable of carrying a nuclear payload and therefore violates a 2010 U.N. Security Council resolution which is still in place.

Iran does not accept that the U.N. resolution bars it from testing missiles, as long as it has no nuclear weapons to place on them.

The standoff has turned into a diplomatic and political test for both Washington and Tehran, even as the lifting of sanctions under the nuclear deal draws closer.

Early in the new year, the United States and European Union are expected to unfreeze billions of dollars of Iranian assets, allow Iranian firms access to the international financial system and end bans that have crippled Iran's oil exports.

The deal was a risky diplomatic achievement for both Obama and Iran's President Hassan Rouhani, leaders of countries that have been enemies for nearly 40 years. Both men are under pressure from hardliners at home to demonstrate that they have not compromised on wider issues.

U.S. officials have said they are permitted to respond to the missile test by imposing fresh sanctions against a list of Iranian individuals and businesses linked to the missile program.

Any such sanctions would be far narrower than the broad measures scheduled to be lifted under the nuclear deal. But Iran says any new sanctions could torpedo the wider accord.

Republican lawmakers who control both houses of the U.S. Congress see the plans for new sanctions as a test of the Obama administration's resolve.

The Wall Street Journal reported that an announcement of new U.S. sanctions was planned for this week but delayed for an unspecified period without explanation.

Rouhani, a relative moderate elected in 2013, has insisted that the nuclear deal does not include any offer to reduce Iran's missile arsenal. On Thursday he ordered his defense minister to expand Iran's missile program.

Iran's senior nuclear negotiator Abbas Araqchi said on Thursday Iran's October missile test did not violate the July nuclear accord, known as JCPOA.

"There is a clear difference between the JCPOA issue and the missile test and the missile test is not a breach of the JCPOA in any way," he was quoted as saying by Press TV.

(Reporting by Bozorgmehr Sharafedin; Editing by Peter Graff)

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