Iran's Ayatollah Ali Khamenei says war unlikely but urges boosting defence capacities

A display featuring missiles and a portrait of Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is seen at Baharestan Square in Tehran, Iran, on Sept 27, 2017.
A display featuring missiles and a portrait of Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is seen at Baharestan Square in Tehran, Iran, on Sept 27, 2017.PHOTO: REUTERS

DUBAI (REUTERS) - Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Sunday (Sept 2) war was unlikely but called on Iran's armed forces to boost their defence capacities, according to his official website.

On Saturday, Iran announced plans to boost its ballistic and cruise missile capacity and acquire modern fighter planes and submarines to boost its defences as the country faces increased tension with the United States following the US pullout from Teheran's nuclear agreement with world powers.

"Ayatollah Khamenei emphasised that based on political calculations there is no likelihood of a military war but added that the armed forces must be vigilant ... and raise their personnel and equipment capacities," the website quoted Khamenei as telling commanders of Iran's air defence forces.

Saturday's news of the military development plans came a day after Iran dismissed a French call for negotiations on Teheran's future nuclear plans, its ballistic missile arsenal and its role in wars in Syria and Yemen.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said last month the Islamic Republic's military prowess was what deterred Washington from attacking it.

Separately, a senior Iranian diplomat met visiting British Junior Foreign Minister Alistair Burt and urged swift European action on a planned package of economic measures to offset the US pullout from the accord and the reimpositions of sanctions by Washington, the state news agency IRNA reported.

"The imposition of (US) sanctions and pressures and the lack of rapid action by Europe to fulfil their commitments will have serious consequences," Kamal Kharrazi, a former foreign minister who heads a top foreign policy council, told Burt, IRNA reported.

Iranian officials have said they would decide whether to quit the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers after studying the European package of economic measures that could help offset US sanctions.

"European countries have not been able yet to take necessary measures to secure Iran's interests under the nuclear agreement," Kharrazi said. "(Burt) said Britain's position is different from that of the United States and we are looking for a European mechanism to make the nuclear accord successful," IRNA reported.

Burt, on the first visit by a British minister since US President Donald Trump withdrew from the nuclear deal, earlier met Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Saturday the talks with Burt had involved "access to banking resources and the sale of oil".

Iran has been seeking commitment from European signatories of the nuclear deal that it will be able to access the Western banking system and continue to sell oil despite US sanctions. In a statement before his visit, Burt said: "As long as Iran meets its commitments under the deal, we remain committed to it as we believe it is the best way to ensure a safe, secure future for the region."