Iran missile production up threefold, report says

Iran missile production up threefold, report says

Iran has increased its missile production three-fold, a senior Revolutionary Guards commander said yesterday, according to the Fars news service. The commander did not explain during what time period the production increase had taken place.

"In the past we had to do a lot of explaining to various bodies for our actions but it's not like that anymore," Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, the head of the Guards' aerospace division said, according to Fars, as reported by Reuters. "Our production has increased three-fold compared to the past," he said, referring to missiles.

The government, parliament and other Iranian officials had, in particular, agreed on the need for ground-to-ground missiles, Hajizadeh said. Fars gave no further details.

France's foreign minister visited Iran on Monday on a delicate mission to reaffirm Europe's support for a nuclear deal that opened Iran's economy, while echoing U.S. concern about its missile program and role in regional conflicts.

Iran rebuffed French FM Le Drian's calls to curb its missile program after a day of tense discussions in Tehran on Monday aimed at salvaging its historic nuclear deal.

Le Drian said there was "still a lot of work to do" on Iran's missile program after meeting with top officials, including President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

Zarif countered that Europe needed to "play a more constructive role to preserve" the nuclear deal.

"And above all to put pressure on the United States to meet its commitments under the deal and not to allow it to present illogical and illegal demands," Zarif added, according to an account by the foreign ministry, according to AFP.

The visit comes in the midst of a scramble by European governments to salvage the 2015 deal after U.S. President Donald Trump threatened he would abandon it unless tough new restrictions were placed on Iran before May 12.

Rouhani issued a statement after meeting Le Drian, saying: "Preserving the nuclear accord will prove to the world that negotiation and diplomacy are the best option for solving problems, while its collapse will signify that political negotiations are a waste of time."

Le Drian has insisted he is not "an emissary of Trump", but he has taken a firm line on Iran's missile program and regional interventions that mirrors the rhetoric from Washington. "There are programs for missiles with ranges of several thousand kilometers which are not in line with U.N. Security Council resolutions and go beyond what is needed to secure Iran's borders," Le Drian told Le Journal du Dimanche on the eve of his visit.

France has ballistic missiles with ranges of more than 6,000 kilometers, which can be launched from submarines, but Le Drian said Iran was risking fresh sanctions if it did not curb its missile program, which is currently limited to 2,000 kilometers. His statements have not been warmly received in Iran, with Zarif telling Monday's reformist Etemad newspaper: "In order to keep the United States in the Iran nuclear deal, European countries are suffering from extremism and this will ultimately undermine Europe's policy."