ANKARA, Feb 16 (Reuters) - Iran on Thursday rejected U.S. President Donald Trump’s statement that its nuclear ambitions were a major security challenge and said its arch foe Israel was the biggest threat to global peace.
“The Zionist regime (Israel) poses the biggest threat to regional and international peace and security by possessing hundreds of nuclear warheads in its arsenal,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi was quoted as saying by the semi-official Tasnim news agency.
Israel, believed to have the Middle East’s only nuclear arsenal with 200 warheads, sees Iran’s nuclear programme as a threat to its existence. It refuses to confirm or deny it has nuclear weapons.
After meeting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday in Washington, Trump said the threat of Iran’s nuclear ambitions was one of the biggest security challenges facing Israel.
“The bitter irony is that such baseless allegations are raised by the Zionist regime that is not committed to any international regulations,” Qasemi said.
Netanyahu is vehemently opposed to a nuclear accord reached between Iran and six world powers in 2015, which he believes is insufficient to stop Tehran developing an atomic bomb. Under the deal, Tehran received relief from global economic sanctions in return for curbing its nuclear work.
Trump, who has also criticized the accord, assured Netanyahu that Tehran would never be able to build a nuclear weapon.
But Qasemi repeated Tehran’s assertion that it had no such plans, saying a nuclear weapons programme had “no place in Iran’s defence doctrine”.
“The accusations against Iran are in contradiction to multiple reports by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) which have confirmed the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear activities,” Qasemi said.
Trump put Iran “on notice” after a Jan. 29 Iranian missile test and imposed new sanctions on individuals and entities. Iran said it will not halt its missile programme.
Writing by Parisa Hafezi; Editing by Angus MacSwan