Tehran boasts of arms export deals

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The Independent Online
Iran has become self-sufficient in arms production and is exporting weapons and ammunition to 14 countries, according to its Minister of Defence and Armed Forces Logistics, Mohammed Forouzandeh, writes Michael Sheridan.

Iranian military and political leaders have been talking in public about the achievements of their arms industry during celebrations to mark the 15th anniversary of the outbreak of war with Iraq.

Earlier this week, the Foreign Minister, Ali Velayati, clashed at the United Nations with Warren Christopher, the United States Secretary of State, who declared Iran to be a terrorist nation. Mr Velayati responded that Iran would not be bullied and that the US should keep out of Gulf affairs.

Tension between the two has been heightened by US trade sanctions and Iran's continued denial of US accusations that it is seeking to build a nuclear bomb. In the latest exchange, Iranian and Chinese officials this week denied reports that Tehran had acquired uranium processing equipment from China. Tehran's public assertions of confidence in its arms industry coincide with military manoeuvres in the Gulf and the west of the country. Mr Forouzandeh said: "We are exporting arms and ammunition to 14 countries and we are even transferring technology."

Senior army officers have announced the development of a new 40-tonne tank, the Zulfaqar, equipped with advanced optics, a laser-tracking system for target location and infra-red technology for night fighting. Meanwhile, the Iranian navy has taken delivery of Russian submarines and is improving its amphibious training. Rear-Admiral Abbas Mohtaj, the navy's deputy commander, said it was ready for action in the Caspian Sea as well as the Gulf.

Brigadier-General Habib Baqa'i, the Air Force commander, said pilots were training on newly acquired aircraft such as the Russian MiG-29 and Sukhoi-24. Air force technicians have developed a mid-air refuelling system for the MiG-29. "If ... there is ever any need to use them in even the remotest parts of the Middle East region, we would be able to deliver our blows to the enemy," he said.