The dispute is the latest in a growing number of issues that divide Washington and Tehran in the talks which followed an earlier fruitful round of negotiations in Geneva in November.
"They have to deal with matters related to their ballistic missile program," The Wall Street Journal quoted White House Spokesman Jay Carney as saying.
But Iran says the missiles are part of its defense establishment and beyond the limits of nuclear talks. In any case, the issue of whether Iran's ballistic missile capabilities will be on the agenda already has exposed a rift between the Americans and Iranians, the report said.
Last week, Iran's Islamic Revolution Guards Corps successfully test-fired two domestically made ballistic missiles, one was a laser-guided air-to-surface and surface-to-surface missile, but the second one was much more important as it can carry a Multiple Reentry Vehicle (MRV) payload.
While the US officials said they were surprised by the tests, Iran's President Hassan Rouhani praised the tests last week. And members of his nuclear negotiating team who traveled to Vienna insisted the negotiations won't focus on the issue of Tehran's ballistic missile capabilities.
"The Islamic Republic of Iran's defensive issues are neither negotiable nor subject to compromise. They are definitely among our red lines in any talks," Iran's Deputy Foreign Minister Seyed Abbas Araqchi told Iranian state television on Sunday. "We won't discuss any issue other than the nuclear dossier in the negotiations."
US officials, however, pushed back on Tuesday at the talks and insisted Iran's ballistic missile capabilities will be addressed as part of any final accord on the nuclear program.
"Every issue is on the table as part of the comprehensive negotiations, including Iran's ballistic missile program," said a senior administration official at the talks.
The talks involve Iran and six global powers—the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany. The chief US negotiator, Wendy Sherman, held nearly 90 minutes of direct meetings with Mr. Araqchi, according to US officials.
Meetings are scheduled through Thursday, largely focused on creating a framework for what's expected to be six months of negotiations. aimed at forging a final nuclear deal, according US and European diplomats involved in the talks.
American diplomats said these talks and later rounds must comply with UN Security Council resolutions adopted in response to Iran's nuclear program.
Iran maintains its nuclear program is purely peaceful.
US officials wouldn't comment on whether Ms. Sherman discussed the missile issue with Mr. Araqchi.
Congress is pressuring the White House to use the international negotiations to curtail Iran's missile program.
Legislation drafted by Senators Robert Menendez (D., N.J.) and Mark Kirk (R., Ill.), which has yet to be voted on, requires the final nuclear agreement comply with all UN resolutions. It also requires the White House to impose new sanctions on Tehran if it test-fires a missile with a range of beyond 500 kilometers (300 miles).
After Iran and the world powers struck a deal in November, the US Treasury Department imposed fresh sanctions against companies and individuals for their business links with Iran.
The US Treasury Department said earlier this month that the targeted entities operated in Turkey, Spain, Germany, Georgia, Afghanistan, Iran, Liechtenstein and the United Arab Emirates.
Also, Washington officials have been making increasing provocative remarks against Iran and the deal since November. US Secretary of State John Kerry said in an interview in Geneva in January that the military option was still on the table if Iran did not live up to its nuclear commitments under the Geneva deal.
In response, a large number of Iranian officials have warned of the dire repercussions of such remarks by Washington officials. Lieutenant Commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Brigadier General Hossein Salami warned that the slightest military move by the US will be reciprocated by Iran's harshest response, underlining that Iran's reaction would "recognize no boundary".
After two rounds of talks, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif slammed the US war rhetoric against Tehran, and said using the language of force in the international relations does not have any application in modern day.
“If a country states that all options are on the table and wants to use it as a foreign policy tool, it is still living in the very remote past,” the Iranian foreign minister said addressing the Iran-Austria Friendship Society on Wednesday.
He reiterated that experiences of certain countries show that most of those countries that used this kind of bullying have either been completely defeated or failed to achieve most of their objectives.
The Iranian foreign minister pointed to the use of the language of force by the West in the nuclear talks with Iran, and said, “The sanctions imposed against us with this language did not produce any (positive) result for its organizers and the world, and if anybody imagines that Iran has come to the negotiating table due to the embargos, he/she is making a bad mistake in his/her calculations.”
In Tehran, many senior officials have voiced pessimism about the US approach towards the talks.
Commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari underlined IRGC’s pessimistic view about the results of the talks underway between Iran and the Group 5+1 (the US, Russia, China, Britain and France plus Germany), but said the force will keep silent until the end to see the result, although he predicted that the negotiations will be troubled.
“The government has entered the negotiations with heroic flexibility and maintaining the principles so that either the pressures of the sanctions will be relieved or the country’s officials will be disappointed at the foreigners (western) and focus on domestic power; (hence) any result yielded (from the talks) will be positive,” Jafari said, addressing a two-day conference of students Basij (Volunteer forces) in Tehran on Wednesday.
He said that the talks between Iran and the G5+1 will continue provided that the Iranian officials won’t withdraw from the country’s redlines, and expressed the confidence that Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei would never allow anyone to ignore the redlines.
Jafari underlined that due to the sensitivity of the negotiations between Iran and the world powers the IRGC has kept silent in a bid to prevent enemies from using its stances as a pretext against Tehran.
Later in the day, the Major General told reporters, "We cannot be optimistic about the US, and it seems that we will be faced with trouble" in the nuclear talks, "but I hope that won't be the case".
Also this week, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei renewed his pessimistic view about the possibility of a nuclear deal with the US-led West, specially after the recent insulting remarks of Washington officials, although he stressed that this would not mean an end of negotiations with the world powers.
The Leader praised the massive turnout of the Iranian people in the annual February 11 rallies, marking the anniversary of the victory of the Islamic Revolution, and said reports showed that the country this February experienced its most crowded rallies in recent years.
He said such an unrivaled public presence in the rallies carried the message that "the Iranian nation will not surrender to the United States' bullying and it won't be blackmailed by the US".
He further noted the US bullying approach and its black record in dealing with the outside world, saying, "No one can hide the ugly face of the US by make-up to introduce it as a state which is interested in the Iranian nation".
Ayatollah Khamenei reminded the crimes of the United States in the last 80 years, including waging numerous wars, massacre of innocent people, supporting cruel dictators, international terrorism and state-sponsored terrorism in different parts of the world such as its backup for the terrorist Zionist regime of Israel, conducting terror operations and killing tens of thousands of people in its invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan, and the last but not the least forming extremist Takfiri groups and supporting them, and asked, "How can one change such an ugly and criminal face when it comes to relations with the Iranian nation."
Ayatollah Khamenei also pointed to the black record of the United States' hostile measures against Iran throughout the last century, specially after the onset of the Islamic Revolution, and condemned the US president for his empathy and support for the leaders of the seditionist move against the Islamic Republic in the 2009 presidential elections, which he complained has continued up until now.
Following this introduction, the Supreme Leader noted his March, 2013 remarks in the Northeastern city of Mashhad when he stressed his pessimistic view about the possibility of a nuclear deal with the US-led powers.
"Some statesmen in the previous and the present governments imagined that if we negotiate with the US, the problem will be solved; (in response) I stated that I didn't have any objection to negotiation over the nuclear issue due to their insistence, but I stressed right then that I was not optimistic," he said.
The Leader said now some signs are appearing which vindicate the veracity of his pessimistic view, including "the cheap and insulting statements of the US senators and officials against the Iranian nation".
"Of course, the Iranian nation responded to these insults in the February 11 rallies and slapped the US officials on the mouth," he added, stressing that responding to the US officials' insults, arrogance and bullying was a main cause of the people's unprecedented turnout in this year's rallies.
The Leader said such an admirable presence on the scene gave this message to the Iranian officials that "the nation is standing firm and officials should not feel feeble in the confrontation against the enemy".
Ayatollah Khamenei renewed his earlier remarks about the root cause of Iran's problems with the US, saying the Islamic Republic would not step back even for an inch, but "even if the nuclear issue was resolved exactly the way the US wanted, the Americans would seek other excuses." "Now everyone is witnessing that the US administration spokespersons are speaking of human rights issues and the missile and defense capabilities of Iran."
He then reminded the United States' black record in treating human rights issues like the Guantanamo and Abu Greib prisons, its assistance to notorious world terrorists and many others cases, and asked how the Americans could speak of human rights conditions in Iran.
Yet, the Leader underlined that his words should not be interpreted as an end to the nuclear negotiations, and said, "What the foreign ministry and government officials have started with regard to the nuclear talks will continue and Iran will not violate what it has started, but everyone should know that the US in essence feels enmity towards the Islamic Revolution and Islam and this enmity will not end with the talks."
"The only way to cure this animosity is relying on national might and domestic capabilities and strengthening the internal structure of the country," underscored the Supreme Leader.
Last March, Ayatollah Khamenei questioned the US honesty in its offer of talks with Iran, and stressed that talks would be meaningless as long as Washington continued its hostile policy towards Iran.
"Through different ways and messages, the Americans try to negotiate with us on the nuclear issue, but I am not optimistic about these talks," Ayatollah Khamenei said, addressing Iranian people in Northeastern holy city of Mashhad in March, 2013.
"I am not opposed to talks with regard to the nuclear issue, but certain issues must be clarified," the Leader said.
The Leader pointed to the US claim that they intend to be honest in their talks with Iran, and noted, "We have repeatedly asserted that we do not seek nuclear weapons but you do not believe this honest word; why should we accept your word?"
"Negotiation is an American tactic for deceiving the public opinion and if it is otherwise the Americans should prove it," the Leader stated.
He pointed to the talks between Iran and the Group 5+1, and said that Washington does not want the talks to come to a conclusion.
"With regard to the nuclear issue, Iran only wants the recognition of its rights to enrichment."
The Leader noted that the US seeks to prolong the course of the negotiations in an attempt to "paralyze" the Iranian nation.
"Iran will never be crippled and if the Americans want the issue to be over, there is one simple solution which is the US should put aside its enmity with the Iranian nation."
The Leader pointed out that the enemy seeks to create hurdles through sanctions and threats and downplay Iran's achievements through propaganda, as its two major strategies against the Iranian nation.
"The center of conspiracy and the basis of hostility with the Iranian nation is the US administration," Ayatollah Khamenei noted.
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