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August 23, 2019

Iran unveils home-grown missile defence system


August 23, 2019

TEHRAN: Iran unveiled its new home-grown air defence system on Thursday at a time of increased tensions with the United States.

Iranian officials have previously called Bavar-373 the Islamic republic’s first domestically produced long-range missile defence system. Tehran began making Bavar -- which means "believe" -- after the purchase of Russia’s S-300 system was suspended in 2010 due to international sanctions.

President Hassan Rouhani attended the unveiling ceremony for the mobile surface-to-air system and ordered it to be added to Iran’s missile defence network, state news agency IRNA reported.

"The long-range Bavar-373 missile system is suited to Iran’s geography with a range of more than 200 kilometres (124 miles) ... and competes with Russian and American systems such as S-300 and Patriot," IRNA said.

The system is "better than S-300 and close to S-400", Rouhani said in televised remarks after the ceremony, held on Iran’s "national defence industry day". Pictures released by his office showed the system mounted on the back of military trucks in Tehran.

Iran installed the S-300 system in March 2016 following several years of delays, after a nuclear agreement reached with world powers the previous year allowed the lifting of international sanctions.

Thursday’s unveiling takes place against a backdrop of rising tensions with Washington since President Donald Trump last year withdrew the United States from the nuclear deal and reimposed sanctions.

Iran shot down a US Global Hawk drone with a surface-to-air missile in June for allegedly violating its airspace, which the United States denies.

Meanwhile, President Emmanuel Macron will on Friday hold talks on Iran’s contested nuclear programme with Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif, the French presidency said, in a rare encounter between a Western head of state and a senior Iranian official.

Macron will meet Zarif just one day before France chairs a three-day summit of leaders of Group of Seven (G7) countries, including President Donald Trump, in the southern resort of Biarritz.

Zarif, who has been on a tour of Scandinavia, had earlier this week said he planned to hold talks in Paris. The discussions between Zarif and Macron will come at a critical time for relations between Tehran and the West as Iran ramps up its nuclear programme in response to Trump’s decision to pull out of the 2015 deal over its atomic drive.

France and other EU powers have insisted they want to keep the nuclear deal alive, although many analysts warn the US pullout dealt it a near-fatal blow.

Macron has insisted that diplomacy is the only way to solve the standoff and twice in the last months despatched his diplomatic adviser Emmanuel Bonne to Tehran. A presidential official, who asked not to be named, said the talks would continue this channel.

Macron admitted in comments on Wednesday there were "true disagreements" within the G7 over Iran but said he would "try to propose things" in the talks. The French foreign ministry said earlier this month that it "needs no permission" to talk to Iran after Trump accused Macron of sending "mixed signals" to the Islamic Republic.

Zarif said in Norway on Thursday that Macron had made proposals to President Hassan Rouhani who had despatched him to Paris "to see if we can finalise some of these ideas so each party can fulfil its obligations" under the nuclear deal.

"It will be a chance to see if we can find ground for understanding. We already have points of agreement," Zarif said. The Iranian foreign minister, a suave fluent English speaker, was earlier this month slapped with sanctions by the United States. But the EU insisted it would continue to work with him.

Zarif’s talks in Paris may also see the case raised of French-Iranian academic Fariba Adelkhah who was detained in Iran earlier this year and is one of many Western-Iranian dual nationals to be held behind bars there.

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