PHOTO: Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif: “Washington bound by nuclear deal”

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has pushed back US sanctions and warnings over Iran’s ballistic missiles.

Zarif declared on Saturday that Tehran has no limitations on development “because this program has nothing to do with nuclear weapons”.

He said that, in line with an order by President Rouhani, Iran will continue to enhance its missile capabilities.

Despite the implementation of the July 2015 nuclear deal, the issue of medium-range ballistic missiles has continued to stoke tension between the US and Iran. Washington protested missile tests last October and earlier this month, warning that it would take the issue to the UN Security Council.

Last week, the US sanctioned another six individuals and two companies, linked to the Revolutionary Guards, for activities connected to the missile program.

See Iran Daily, March 25: Tehran Criticizes New US Sanctions

Iran contends that its testing, including March’s launch of Qadr-H rockets travelling 1,400 km (870 miles) within the country, does not violate a UN Security Council resolution because the missiles are not capable of carrying nuclear warheads.

The issue has complicated the Rouhani Government’s foreign policy of engagement, with the Supreme Leader warning that the US sanctions cannot be tolerated. Last week, Ayatollah Khamenei chastised the Government over American restrictions on the financial and banking sector and the failure to return Iraniian assets after the nuclear deal.

The President has responded with a defiant line towards Washington. At the end of December, he ordered Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan to accelerate development.

Zarif, accompanying Rouhani in a two-day visit to Pakistan, also said comments by US Presidential candidates about the missile program should not be taken seriously.

Appearing before the American Israel Public Affairs Committee last week, Republican candidates said they will retract the nuclear deal, while Hillary Clinton said relations with Iran can go no farher than the agreement.

Zarif said the views, “under the influence of the Zionist lobby”, do not alter the reality that Washington is legally bound to respect the agreement.