Iran slams US regional air defence plan ahead of Biden trip

US President Joe Biden is due to begin his first visit to the Middle East on July 13. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

TEHERAN (AFP) - Iran has described as a "threat" the United States' plans for enhancing air defence cooperation with its Middle East allies, due to be discussed during President Joe Biden's upcoming regional trip.

The White House's National Security Council spokesman John Kirby last Thursday said "greater collaboration" on issues such as air defence, particularly with regards to countering Teheran, would be on Mr Biden's agenda as he visits Israel and Saudi Arabia next week.

"The proposal of this issue is provocative and the Islamic republic of Iran views these remarks as a threat to national and regional security," Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani said late on Saturday (July 9).

"Trying to create new security concerns in the region will have no result other than weakening common regional security and serving the security interests of the Zionist regime," he continued, in reference to Israel.

Mr Biden is due to begin on Wednesday his first visit to the Middle East since taking office in January 2021.

He is set to meet the leaders of Iran's arch-nemesis Israel and its regional rival Saudi Arabia, as well as those of other countries such as Egypt, Iraq and Jordan.

The US and its Gulf Arab allies accuse Iran of destabilising the region with its ballistic missile programme and support for armed militias.

Mr Kirby said on Thursday: "We're continuing to work on integrated air defence capabilities and frameworks across the region.

"The whole region is concerned about Iran and their burgeoning and growing ballistic missile capabilities."

Mr Kanani noted that Washington raises such issues "with the sole purpose of Iranophobia and creating discord between the countries of the region".

"Any groundwork for increasing the presence and role of the US in regional security mechanisms will only lead to insecurity, instability and the spread of terrorism," he added.

Mr Kanani's remarks came amid heightened tensions between Iran and Western powers as talks in Vienna to revive a 2015 nuclear deal have been stalled since March.

In late June, Qatar hosted indirect talks between the US and Iran in Doha, in a bid to get the Vienna process back on track, but those discussions broke up after two days without any breakthrough.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.