Iran says foreign minister's missile negotiations comments were 'hypothetical'
Remarks made by Iran's foreign minister suggesting its missile programme could be part of negotiations with the US was intended to challenge Washington foreign policy, Tehran said on Wednesday.
During an interview with NBS news on Tuesday, Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif said that the country's missile system - a source contention with the US - could be part of future negotiations if Washington pledged to end arms sales to Tehran's regional adversaries - namely Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
"These are American weaponry that is going into our region, making our region ready to explode, so if they want to talk about our missiles, they need first to stop selling all these weapons, including missiles, to our region," he said.
This contradicted statements made by Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei that Iran’s missile programme was not up for negotiation.
Highlighting the vast imbalance in arms sales in the region, Zarif claimed that Iran spent only $16 billion on its military in 2018, while Saudi Arabia forked out $67 billion on arms, and the UAE $22 billion.
He also added that Iran's missiles range are restricted to 2,000km, putting Europe out of its reach.
On Wednesday, Iran's foreign ministry appeared to back-peddle on the minister's remarks, insisting this did not mean Tehran is ready for talks with the US.
Foreign Ministry's spokesman Abbas Mousavi tweeted that the minister's remarks "threw the ball into the US court while challenging America's arm sales" to regional powers.
Iran's mission to the UN also described Zarif's comments as purely "hypothetical", which comes after tough sanctions were enforced on Tehran by the US.
The US pulled out of nuclear deal with Tehran and embargoed Iran, in part due to the country's missile programme.
Tehran has inched its uranium production and enrichment over the limits of its 2015 nuclear deal, trying to put more pressure on Europe to offer it better terms and allow it to sell its crude oil abroad.
However, those tensions also have seen the US send thousands of additional troops, nuclear-capable B-52 bombers and advanced fighter jets into the Mideast.
Mysterious attacks on oil tankers and Iran shooting down a US military surveillance drone has added to the fears of an armed conflict breaking out.
The UK defence ministry announced Tuesday that it would send a third battleship to the Gulf.
Agencies contributed to this story.