Iran foreign minister says country 'had no choice' but to build missiles for defense

Iran’s foreign minister said Wednesday that his country must manufacture missiles for defensive purposes, days after he appeared to suggest the weapons could be up for negotiations.

In a tweet Wednesday, Javad Zarif said that Iran's missile program grew out of the 1980-1988 war against Saddam Hussein's Iraq.

"For 8 YEARS, Saddam showered our cities with missiles & bombs provided by East & West," Zarif wrote. "Meanwhile, NO ONE sold Iran any means of defense. We had no choice but building our own. Now they complain."

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"Instead of skirting the issue, US must end arms sales to Saddam's reincarnations," Zarif also said.

In an interview with NBC News that aired earlier this week, Zarif said that if the U.S. wants to discuss Iran’s missile development, it needs "first to stop selling all these weapons, including missiles, to our region."

Iran has long rejected negotiations over its ballistic missile program, which remains under the control of the Iranian paramilitary Revolutionary Guard, which answers only to the country's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

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The foreign minister’s comments seemed to suggest an opening for talks amid high tensions between Tehran and Washington.But the Iranian mission to the United Nations promptly called Zarif's suggestion purely "hypothetical" and said the Iranian missiles were "absolutely and under no condition negotiable with anyone or any country, period."

Abbas Mousavi, a spokesman for the country’s Foreign Ministry, tweeted late on Tuesday that Zarif’s remarks were meant to challenge Washington and “threw the ball into the U.S. court while challenging America’s arm sales” to its Middle Eastern allies.

Tensions between Tehran and Washington have sharply escalated since President Donald Trump unilaterally last year withdrew America from the nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers and re-imposed sanctions on Iran, sending its economy into freefall.

America has also rushed thousands of additional troops, an aircraft carrier, nuclear-capable B-52 bombers and advanced fighter jets to the Mideast amid unspecified threats from Iran.

Mysterious oil tanker blasts near the Strait of Hormuz, attacks by Iranian-backed rebels in Yemen on Saudi Arabia and Iran's shooting down of a U.S. military drone in the past months further raised fears of a wider conflict engulfing a region crucial to global energy supplies.

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Recently, British authorities intercepted the Iranian supertanker Grace 1, carrying 2.1 million barrels of light crude oil, and seized it with the help of British Royal Marines off the coast of Gibraltar.

They believed it to be violating European Union sanctions by carrying a shipment of Iranian crude oil to Syria. Spanish authorities said the seizure came at the request of the United States.

Fox News' Morgan Cheung and the Associated Press contributed to this report.