NICOSIA, Cyprus — Iranian Prime Minister Hussein Moussavi said Sunday that his country is producing "sophisticated offensive chemical weapons" and has deployed long-range missiles along its war front with Iraq.
Iran's official Islamic Republic News Agency quoted Moussavi as saying that Iran will also soon begin manufacturing fighter aircraft. He was addressing Parliament in Tehran, presenting the government's new annual budget.
Moussavi's admission that Iran is producing chemical weapons was the first official statement indicating that production has begun. Until now, Iranian spokesmen have only said that Iran is capable of producing such weapons, whose use is banned under a 1925 Geneva treaty.
IRNA, monitored in Nicosia, quoted Moussavi as saying that Iran will not use the outlawed weapons "as long as it is not forced to and will respect international conventions."
Iran's pronouncements came as it is appeared poised to launch a major new ground offensive against Iraq in the seven-year-old war and as the U.N. Security Council moved toward an arms embargo against Iran for rejecting a cease-fire.
The United Nations accused Iraq at least three times in recent years of using chemical weapons against Iran. The Iraqis claimed Iran used similar weapons against them, but there was no independent confirmation.
Western military sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said in recent months that Iran and Iraq are both capable of producing advanced nerve gases as well as missile systems that, in theory, could be used to deliver the chemical agents.
IRNA quoted Moussavi as saying that Iran is now producing copies of U.S.-designed TOW anti-tank missiles, Soviet-designed Katyusha rockets and remote-controlled pilotless reconnaissance aircraft and will soon start making fighter planes.
Moussavi gave no details of the fighter plane. But Western analysts have said they believe it is a propeller-driven aircraft, probably based on the Swiss Pilatus PC-7 trainer. Iran has about 40 PC-7s, which can be converted for combat use.
Western analysts have acknowledged that Iran is probably self-sufficient in small arms, mortar and ammunition production and is manufacturing some surface-to-surface missiles with non-nuclear warheads and relatively crude guidance systems.
They are skeptical about claims that Iran is producing technologically sophisticated missiles.