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Iran cuts defence spending to under $1 billion

TEHRAN, Jan 26 (AFP) - With plunging oil prices provoking a serious economic crisis, Iran has slightly cut its defence budgetfor the next fiscal year beginning March 21, papers here reportedTuesday.

Parliament approved government proposals for a military budget of 2,800 billion rial -- about 933 million dollars at the official3,000 rial to the dollar exchange rate -- against 2,900 billion (966million dollars) for the current year.

The budget stipulates that the armed forces should "procure armaments and military hardware from the domestic defense industryand only purchase abroad what cannot be made here."

The country, a major regional power, has striven to develop its own arms industry and missiles, to avoid spending precious hardcurrency.

It is accused by the United States and Israel of attempting to acquire weapons of mass destruction.

Iran denies the charge, and says its weapons programme is purely defensive and has no nuclear component.

Former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani claimed last December that Iran is self-sufficient in missile technology and "has no needfor help from any country."


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