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Iran threatens defence overhaul to counter 'suspicious nuclear projects'

LONDON (Reuters) - A senior Iranian security official on Wednesday accused regional powers of spending money on “suspicious nuclear projects”, and warned that such threats would force Tehran to revise its defence strategy.

FILE PHOTO: Admiral Ali Shamkhani, Iran's Supreme National Security Council Director, speaks to the media after his arrival at Damascus airport, September 30, 2014. REUTERS/Khaled al-Hariri

Ali Shamkhani, the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, did not name the countries - but a proposed transfer of U.S. nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia has raised concerns in Tehran.

The United States, Israel and other allies say Iran’s own nuclear programme is a threat to global security. Iran insists its atomic work is entirely peaceful, and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has issued a religious decree against the development of nuclear weapons.

“Some countries in the region are spending their petro-dollars on suspicious nuclear projects that can endanger the security of the region and the world,” Shamkhani was quoted as saying by Fars news agency.

“New threats like this will force us to revise our strategy based on the nature and geography of new threats, and predict the requirements of our country and armed forces,” he added.

Shamkhani said Tehran was watching the “unusual activities” of countries in the region that he accused of supporting militant groups.

The rivalry between the Sunni Muslim kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Shi’ite Muslim Iran has deepened in recent years and spilled into the wars in Syria and Yemen, where they have backed opposing sides.

Animosity between Washington and Tehran - bitter foes since Iran’s 1979 revolution - has intensified since U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew from an international nuclear deal with Tehran last May and reimposed sanctions lifted under the accord, aiming to cut Tehran’s oil exports to zero.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif accused the United States last month of hypocrisy for trying to wreck Iran’s nuclear programme while seeking to sell nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia.

Iran said on Wednesday that it would respond firmly to any Israeli naval action against its oil shipments, a week after Israel’s prime minister said its vessels could act against Iranian oil “smuggling”.

Reporting by Bozorgmehr Sharafedin; Editing by Andrew Heavens