* Rouhani vows peaceful nuclear work "forever"
* Sanctions are brutal and wrong, president says
* Iran test fires two new missiles
(Adds analyst comment, context, paragraphs 3-4, 7-8, 12, 20)
By Mehrdad Balali and William Maclean
DUBAI, Feb 11 President Hassan Rouhani dismissed
on Tuesday a Western assertion that military force could yet
solve a decade-old nuclear dispute if negotiations proved
fruitless, pledging that Iran would pursue peaceful atomic
In a speech marking the 35th anniversary of the 1979 Islamic
revolution, Rouhani also attacked economic sanctions imposed by
the West as "brutal, illegal and wrong" and said countries in
the region had nothing to fear from Iran.
Rouhani's comments appeared largely aimed at a domestic
audience rather than signalling any shift away from a thawing in
Tehran's ties with the West since he was elected president last
June on a platform of easing its international isolation.
But they still underlined mistrust towards the West and the
uphill task negotiators from Iran and six world powers face when
they start talks next week aimed at reaching a final settlement
over the Islamic Republic's nuclear programme.
In a gesture of national resolve ahead of that meeting,
Iran test-fired two new domestically made missiles on Monday.
Analysts said the missile test, and a reported plan by
Iranian warships to cross the Atlantic to approach U.S. shores,
were aimed at a placating Iranian hardliners opposed to talks
with major powers intended to settle the nuclear dispute.
Iran often announces new weapons achievements, although
these are difficult to verify independently.
"There are plenty of reasons to question the weapons'
capability and their impact on the strategic situation in the
region," Pieter Wezeman, a senior researcher at the Stockholm
International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), said.
Rouhani said Western officials continued to argue that if
the nuclear discussions came to nothing, there was always the
option of using military force against its nuclear facilities.
"I say explicitly to those delusional people who say the
military option is on the table, that they should change their
glasses ... Our nation regards the language of threat as rude
and offensive," he said.
"I want to expressly announce that the movement of the
Iranian nation towards the peaks of scientific and technical
progress and advancement, including peaceful nuclear technology,
will be forever," he added.
Iran has previously threatened to hit Israel and U.S. bases
in the region if it comes under attack, and also to block the
Strait of Hormuz, the neck of the Gulf through which 40 percent
of the world's seaborne oil exports pass.
Iran and six world powers struck an interim deal in November
under which Tehran agreed to limit parts of its nuclear work in
return for the easing of some sanctions.
Hardliners, unsettled by the foreign policy shift since
Rouhani took office, have repeatedly criticised the agreement.
Iran's most powerful authority, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali
Khamenei, has so far backed the deal.
Farhang Jahanpour of Oxford University's Faculty of Oriental
Studies said the missile test was a message of reassurance aimed
at Iranian hardliners wary of the deal.
"The message is that 'we are not surrendering, we are still
OK, we are still winning points'. The idea is to blunt the
criticism of those who don't like the negotiations," he said.
Jahanpour said an announcement that Iran would send warships
toward U.S. maritime borders also fell into the category of
government propaganda aimed at a domestic audience each year on
the revolution's anniversary.
Richard Weitz, Director of the Center for Political-Military
Analysis at the Hudson Institute in the United States said the
political message of the test was that "Iran can defend itself
even without nuclear weapons".
"It would be helpful, from the proliferation point of view,
if Iranian leaders genuinely believed this," he said.
But SIPRI's Wezeman said other regional states, including
Iran's rival Saudi Arabia, continued to upgrade their forces
with new advanced weapons from U.S. and European suppliers that
were "far superior" to what Iran says it is fielding.
Iranian officials have criticised U.S. Secretary of State
John Kerry for speaking about a potential military option.
Kerry told al Arabiya television on Jan. 23 that if Tehran
did not abide by an interim deal over its nuclear programme "the
military option of the United States is ready and prepared to do
what it would have to do".
Rouhani said that if the powers approached Iran in the
final settlement talks seeking mutual interest, respect and
cooperation, they would receive a positive and proper response.
If their approach was inappropriate, this would be harmful to
In an apparent sign of disquiet among hardliners, a written
statement by 24 lawmakers read out in parliament last week
accused Rouhani of failing to authorise and fund military tests
including large annual missile exercises.
"What guarantees our country's sovereignty is demonstrating
full authority and defensive capabilities," the letter said.
(Additional reporting by Fredrik Dahl in Vienna; Writing by
William Maclean; Editing by Jon Boyle)