President Hassan Rouhani gives instruction to increase ballistic missile capability after reports US preparing fresh sanctions against firms and individuals

Irans chairperson, Hassan Rouhani, has accused the US of illegal meddling and ordered his defence minister to step up his countrys ballistic missile programme in response to the prospect of new White House sanctions.

Rouhani reacted angrily to reports that the Obama administration is preparing fresh sanctions against firms and individuals in Iran, Hong Kong and the United Arab Emirates.

As the US government is clearly still seeking its hostile policies and illegal meddling the armed forces need to quickly and significantly increase their missile capability, Rouhani wrote in a letter on Thursday to his defence minister, Hossein Dehghan, published on the nation news organisation IRNA.

The US move, reported by the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday, follows a controversial test by Iran in October of its medium-range Emad rocket. A report by UN sanctions monitors said the missile was capable of carrying a nuclear warhead. Iran insists the rocket is conventional, and purely for defence.

If they are enforced, the sanctions would be the first by Washington against Iran since Tehran signed a nuclear bargain with world power in July that will eventually involve Washington falling separate, wider-ranging sanctions targeting that programme.

The Wall Street Journal afterward reported the US had delayed fresh sanctions, went on to say that, at one point, they had been scheduled to be announced on Wednesday morning in Washington.

Earlier on Thursday, Irans foreign ministry denounced the US administration. As we have declared to the American government Irans weapon programme has no connection to the[ nuclear] arrangement, nation television quoted spokesman Hossein Jaber Ansari as saying.

Ansari added: Iran will resolutely respond to any interfering action by America against its defensive programmes.

The Wall Street Journal reported that the US treasury department was preparing imposing sanctions on two Iran-linked networks helping develop the missile programme.

Under the planned restrictions, US or foreign nationals would be barred from doing business with the firms and people in the networks. US banks would also freeze any US-held assets.

A senior US administration official told the Guardian: As weve said, weve been looking for some time at options for additional actions related to Irans ballistic missile programme based on our continued concerns about its activities, including the October 10 th launch.

We are holding various aspects related to additional designations, as well as evolving diplomatic work that is consistent with our national security interests. As always, we keep Congress informed about issues related to Iran sanctions, and will continue to do so as we work through remaining issues.

Iranian officials has hitherto warned that the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamanei, would view any new US sanctions as a violation of the nuclear deal.

US officials told the newspaper the treasury department preserved the right to sanction Iranian entities allegedly involved in rocket developing, or those that support rights abuses or international terrorism.

The planned sanctions target UAE-based Mabrooka Trading and its founder, Hossein Pournaghshband, for allegedly helping find carbon fiber for the missile programme.

Pournaghshband also allegedly utilized a Hong Kong subsidiary for the heat-resistant materials procurement and financing, the Wall Street Journal reported. Attempts by the newspaper to reaching him were unsuccessful.

The treasury is also reportedly preparing to sanction five Iranian officials who allegedly worked on the missile programme.

The planned new sanctions come even as the US prepares to begin liftingearlier, far-reaching international restrictions on Iran related to its nuclear activities. Rouhani, Irans former top nuclear negotiator, hailed the July deal, declaring constructive participation works.

Irans atomic energy agency said 11 tonnes of uranium materials were sent to Russia on Monday, a move the US secretary of state, John Kerry, said was significant progress under the 14 July nuclear agreement between Iran and six major powers.

Ballistic missile tests by Iran are banned under resolutions of the security council 1929, which dates from 2010 and remains valid until the July nuclear deal between Iran and world power goes into impact.

Once the bargain takes effect, Iran will still be called upon not to undertake any ballistic missile work designed to deliver nuclear weapons for a period of up to eight years, according to a resolutions of the security council adopted in July right after the nuclear deal.

Iran says the resolution was able to ban weapons designed to carry a nuclear warhead , not capable of, so it would not affect members of the military program as Tehran does not seek nuclear weapons.

When the nuclear bargain is enforced Iran will be allowed to return to the international financial system, receive billions of dollars that were frozen by foreign banks, and sell greater sums of petroleum abroad.

Reuters and Agence France-Presse contributed to this report

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