BEIJING, JUNE 13 -- Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Velayati denied today that his country had directly or indirectly received arms from China.
Velayati also said Kuwait "miscalculated" the political equation in the Persian Gulf by requesting U.S. and Soviet protection for its oil tankers. The action, he said, had escalated rather than eased tension in the gulf.
Asked at a news conference at the Iranian Embassy here whether his country possessed any Chinese-made HY2 Silkworm antiship missiles, the foreign minister said he was not in a position to answer the question because he is not a military expert.
U.S. officials have said China provided Iran with the Silkworms. China denies the charge.
The Reagan administration is debating whether to stage a preemptive strike against Silkworm missile sites in Iran, The Washington Post reported earlier this month. Iran has about 20 Silkworms, U.S. officials have said. U.S. intelligence agencies estimate that at least one missile will become operational as early as July 1, U.S. sources in Washington have said.
The Silkworm is a shore-to-ship missile with a range of 50 miles and a 1,100-pound-force warhead.
Asked what action his country might take if a Soviet or U.S. vessel tried to stop Iran from inspecting a Kuwaiti vessel, Velayati said today, "We know how to defend our interests in the Persian Gulf, and we have proven so far that we are able to do so."
He said Iran procures armaments for its war with Iraq from "any place we deem it suitable," except from Israel and South Africa. "I would like to say here that we have not received any Chinese weapons directly or indirectly," Velayati said.
"That doesn't comport with what I know to be the truth," said a western diplomat, when told of Velayati's remarks. U.S. officials in Washington have claimed that China last year became Iran's number one source of weapons.
Velayati also said Iran manufactures some of its missiles.
"Therefore, possessing such missiles and deploying them where we deem it necessary is not something out of the question," the foreign minister said.
Velayati was in Pyongyang, North Korea, earlier this week for a conference of the Nonaligned countries. He arrived here yesterday and met today with Chinese President Li Xiannian, he said. They did not discuss Chinese arms sales to Iran, China's position regarding proposed U.N. sanctions against arms sales to Iran and Kuwait's request for Chinese protection of its tankers in the gulf, Velayati asserted.