ANKARA - Iran will continue to develop its missile programme and it should not be considered a threat to neighbouring and friendly countries, the semi-official Fars news agency quoted the head of the army as saying on Thursday.

Under a deal reached between Iran and six major powers in 2015, most international sanctions imposed on Iran due to its nuclear programme were lifted last month. However, sanctions imposed on its missile programme were not lifted.

According to a July 20 United Nations Security Council resolution endorsing the deal, Iran is still “called upon” to refrain from work on ballistic missiles designed to deliver nuclear weapons for up to eight years. In October, Iran violated a United Nations ban by testing a precision-guided ballistic missile, prompting a US threat to impose more sanctions.

In December, President Hassan Rouhani ordered Iran’s missile programme to be expanded.

“Iran’s missile capability and its missile programme will become stronger. We do not pay attention and do not implement resolutions against Iran, and this is not a violation of the nuclear deal,” Fars quoted commander-in-chief Ataollah Salehi as saying.

He was referring to Iran’s deal with world powers last year to curb a nuclear programme that the West feared, despite Tehran’s denials, was aimed at acquiring atomic weapons.

“Our missile programme is not a threat against our friends but it is a threat against our enemies. Israel should understand what it means,” Salehi said.

Opposition to Israel, which Tehran refuses to recognize since its 1979 Islamic revolution, is a central policy in the country.