01/10/2017, 09.52
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Tehran, Parliament approves increase in military spending: up to 5% of the state budget

The five-year plan provides for the strengthening of ballistic missiles, armed drones and cyber-warfare. Lawmakers approve by 173 votes in favor and 10 against. Intellectuals, artists and activists of Iranian origin in the USA write to the new President Trump: Keep the nuclear deal to avoid new conflicts in the region.

Teheran (AsiaNews) - The Iranian Parliament yesterday approved an increase in military spending, which is expected to reach 5% of the state budget within the next few years. The plan also includes the development of long-range missiles, which newly elected US President Donald Trump has frequently railed against.

Meanwhile a group of intellectuals, artists, and US activists of Iranian origin living in the US has written an open letter to the next occupant of the White House, asking him not to cancel the agreement on Tehran's nuclear program.

Yesterday's vote in the Iranian Parliament is welcomed by the army, the Revolutionary Guards and the Ministry of Defence, which until now could count on a maximum of 2% of the total state budget. However, the decision could exacerbate tensions with the West, which has already condemned recent missile tests as a violation of the UN resolution.

According to the Iranian news agency Tasnim, an overwhelming majority of MEPs (173 against 10) voted in favor of a five-year arms development plan. It provides for "the strengthening of defense capabilities" of Iran as a "regional power" and best "guarantees" on safety.

The program, already announced in July 2015 by the Iranian supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, also includes the upgrading of ballistic missiles, armed drones and an improvement in the capacity in terms of cyber-war.

Recently, the outgoing US administration led by Barack Obama, criticized the missile plan but stressed that it does not violate the terms of the agreement on the nuclear issue. Trump has already pointed out however that he will stop Tehran's projects.

After years of embargo, Iran won a partial easing of Western economic sanctions in exchange for an agreement on its controversial nuclear programme. By and large, the international community welcomed the deal with few exceptions, most notably Israel and the Republican-controlled US Congress, which is awaiting the first moves of the new president Donald Trump.

In recent months, Washington has insisted on using the dollar to bloc in banking transactions, stopping the new economic agreements established after the nuclear deal. This decision has also affected European policy, in particular in the banking sector, and has failed to help the change of direction needed to revive domestic production in Iran. These obstacles are in turn favoring domestic fundamentalist in Iran and undermining the reform program of the moderate President Hassan Rouhani.

In an effort to stem a possible escalation of tension between Tehran and the new US administration, a group of intellectuals, artists, professors, US activists of Iranian origin has written an open letter to the next occupant of the White House.

Signed among others by Professor Reza Aslan, actress Shohreh Aghdashloo and composer Azam Ali, the letter points out that the nuclear deal is a "good compromise", which has "greatly reduced" the possibility of an arms race in the Middle East. While the easing of the sanctions has yet to show its effects on the population, adds the letter, the agreement has relaunched the "hope" of an improvement in the situation for millions of people in the country. The war in Iraq and the conflicts in the region have had a high cost in terms of money and human lives, raising sectarian violence and repression of dissent. "For this reason we ask - conclude the signatories – do not to allow these forces to fan the conflict to worsen the situation exacerbating tensions with Iran," because it would be "a disaster for both countries".

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