Khatami: Iranian Army not a Threat to Other Countries
Iran's armed forces pose no threat to the country's neighbors but still need to be upgraded, President Mohammed Khatami said Monday.
Iran "does not represent a threat to other countries" but it is "determined to firmly defend national interests," Khatami said in a speech to air force officers.
"A strong and powerful Iran contributes to the security and stability of the region," he said, quoted by the official news agency IRNA.
The Iranian president said however that the army needed to upgrade its technology.
After the 1979 Islamic revolution, Iran was hit by a western embargo on any transfer of advanced technology, including military equipment.
Iran is mainly equipped with US arms bought in the 1970s under the shah. Its air force consists primarily of US-built F-14, F-4 and F-5 fighter-bombers and of Russian MiG and Sukhoi bombers.
But since the end of the 1980-88 war against Iraq, Tehran has sought to modernise its army, with former president Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani signing major deals with Russia, China and North Korea.
Iranian Defense Minister Ali Shamkhani claimed in November that Iran has reached self-sufficiency in producing most needed military equipment, including land-launched anti-ship cruise missiles.
After eight days of aerial and naval maneuvers in the Gulf in October, Iran announced it had tested an anti-ship missile.
But Iranian media reported that several US military officials have questioned Tehran's claim to self-sufficiency.
The United States last week urged Moscow to reverse its decision to resume military cooperation with Iran.
Under a 1995 agreement, Russia agreed to finish all scheduled exports of tanks and other battlefield weapons to Iran by December 31, 1999, and not to enter into new contracts.
Washington said it might consider imposing sanctions on Russian firms if they deliver arms to Tehran -- TEHRAN (AFP)
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