Rouhani dares Trump, says Iran will continue missile programme
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Monday Tehran would continue its ballistic missile program, state television reported, striking a defiant note after strong criticism of the Islamic Republic from U.S. President Donald Trump.
“The Iranian nation has decided to be powerful. Our missiles are for peace and for defense … American officials should know that whenever we need to technically test a missile, we will do so and will not wait for their permission,” Rouhani said in a news conference, broadcast live on state TV.
Rouhani also criticised Iran’s arch-foe Saudi Arabia over its lack of democracy, urging Riyadh to allow its people to decide their country’s fate through free elections.
He also said that stability could not be achieved in the Middle East without Tehran’s help, responding to criticism of the Islamic Republic from U.S. President Donald Trump who is visiting the region.
Rouhani, a pragmatist who won a new fresh mandate in a May 19 presidential election, also dismissed a summit Trump attended at the weekend in Saudi Arabia as a “ceremonial (event) that had no political value and will bear no results”.
“Who can say regional stability can be restored without Iran? Who can say the region will experience total stability without Iran?” Rouhani said.
Rouhani also saidthe May 19’s election showed Iranians wanted more democracy and interaction with the world, adding this would lead to much-needed economic progress.
Trump had begun a visit to Israel by warning of the threat posed by Iran if it acquires nuclear weapons.
“Iran must never be allowed to possess a nuclear weapon,” he told reporters in Jerusalem, speaking beside Israeli President Reuven Rivlin.
He flew in from Saudi Arabia, a key US ally, where he gave a speech to Arab and Muslim leaders at a summit.
Mr Trump will hold talks with both Israeli and Palestinian leaders.
He has called an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement “the ultimate deal” but has been vague about what form it should take, saying he prefers to leave it to both sides to decide between them in direct talks.
The two-day visit to Israel forms part of Mr Trump’s first foreign trip as US president.