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SOURCE: SMH

Iran has displayed a new cruise missile with a range of 1300 kilometres during celebrations marking the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution, state television reported. Iran has expanded its missile program, particularly its ballistic missiles, in defiance of opposition from the United States and expressions of concern by European countries. Tehran says the program is purely defensive.

On Saturday, a senior Revolutionary Guard commander suggested that pressure by European countries for talks on curbing Iran’s ballistic missiles development could prompt Tehran to expand it beyond current limits. Speaking during the unveiling ceremony, Defence Minister Amir Hatami said: “This cruise missile needs a very short time for its preparedness and can fly at a low altitude.”

The surface-to-surface missile, named Hoveizeh, is from the Soumar family of cruise missiles, which Iran added to its arsenal in 2015, Hatami said.

Western experts say Iran often exaggerates its weapons capabilities, although there are concerns about its long-range ballistic missiles.

Amirali Hajizadeh, head of the Revolutionary Guard aerospace division, said Iran had overcome initial problems in producing jet engines for cruise missiles and could now manufacture a full range of the weapons.

The Defence Ministry’s website carried an undated video purportedly showing the Hoveizeh being test-fired from a mobile launcher. It quoted Hatami as saying the missile had successfully hit targets at a distance of 1200km.

Since agreeing to a 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, Iran has expanded its missile program despite warnings from the United States.

In January, it tried to launch a satellite into space which it said failed. The launch followed a US warning to Iran against undertaking three planned rocket launches that Washington said would violate a United Nations Security Council resolution.

The resolution, which enshrined Iran’s nuclear deal, called upon Tehran to refrain for up to eight years from work on ballistic missiles designed to deliver nuclear weapons.

Iran says its missile tests are not in violation of the resolution and denies its missiles are capable of carrying nuclear warheads.

In another point of differentiation from the US, Iran’s official IRNA news agency says President Hassan Rouhani has  expressed support for Venezuelan embattled President Nicolas Maduro.

IRNA’s report on Saturday says Rouhani met the Venezuelan envoy to Tehran, Carlos Alcala Cordones, and voiced his support for Maduro’s government.

“We believe the people of Venezuela though unity and standing by the government will defuse the pressures by Washington,” Rouhani is quoted as saying.

Rouhani describes what he termed as US intervention in Venezuela’s internal affairs as “very ugly”.”Americans basically oppose popular revolution and independent nations,” added Rouhani, according to the report.

Iran has been a key supporter of Venezuela’s government since 1999 when the late populist President Hugo Chavez came to power in Caracas.Both countries are members of OPEC and have had numerous economic agreements.