TEHERAN • A defiant Iran vowed yesterday to press ahead with its missile programme and condemned new United States sanctions, as tensions rise after the West hardened its tone against the Islamic republic.
In the latest incident on the ground, Iran's Revolutionary Guards said the US Navy had approached their patrol vessels in the Gulf and fired flares.
"At 4pm on Friday, the supercarrier USS Nimitz and its accompanying warship, while being monitored by the Guards' frigates, flew a helicopter near the Resalat oil and gas platform, and approached the force's ships," the paramilitary force said.
"The Americans, in a provocative and unprofessional move, sent a warning message to the frigates and fired flares," it said.
The Guards "ignored the unconventional move by the US ships and continued their mission".
Three days earlier, a US Navy patrol ship fired warning shots at a Guards boat in the Gulf as it closed in on the US vessel, according to American officials.
The Guards denied approaching the US ship in Tuesday's incident and said it was the American vessel that had been at fault.
There has been a string of close encounters between US ships and Iranian vessels in the Gulf in recent months.
On the political battlefield, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi told state broadcaster Irib that Teheran condemned new sanctions against its missile programme, which US President Donald Trump is set to sign into law, and vowed to press on.
"We will continue with full power our missile programme," he said. "We consider the action by the US as hostile, reprehensible and unacceptable, and it's ultimately an effort to weaken the nuclear deal." Mr Ghasemi was referring to a 2015 agreement between Iran and US-led world powers that lifted some sanctions on Teheran in return for curbs on its nuclear programme.
"The military and missile fields are our domestic policies, and others have no right to intervene or comment on them," he said.
The sanctions Bill, which also targets Russia and North Korea, was passed by the US Senate last Thursday, two days after being approved by the House of Representatives.
Separately last Friday, Washington imposed new sanctions targeting Iran's missile programme, one day after Teheran tested a satellite- launch rocket.
Western governments suspect Iran of trying to develop the technology for longer-range missiles with conventional or nuclear payloads, a charge denied by Teheran, which insists its space programme has peaceful aims.