By ALI AKBAR DAREINI
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- Iran said Tuesday it was producing nuclear defense equipment to protect its citizens in case of any possible attack on its nuclear facilities, according to Tuesday media reports.
Defense Minister Ali Shamkhani said U.S. sanctions had forced Iran to seek self-sufficiency to meet all its defense requirements, the government-owned Persian daily Iran reported.
"Iran has produced nuclear defense equipment," Iran quoted Shamkhani as saying.
"If our nuclear power plants are targeted, there will be radioactive releases. You need special equipment to control it. Also, some countries in our neighborhood have achieved nuclear technology. We have to be prepared if there is an accident there," Shamkhani was quoted as saying.
The minister did not elaborate on the type of equipment Iran was producing.
Defense Ministry officials, contacted by The Associated Press Tuesday, refused comment.
India and Iran's western neighbor, Pakistan, have nuclear weapons. Israel is also believed to possess hundreds of nuclear warheads.
Shamkhani said U.S sanctions have benefited Iran, rather than harming it.
"One of the reasons for our success is various sanctions imposed on us. When we felt all technological doors are closed to us, we had no option but to seek self-sufficiency and produce our needs ourselves," he said.
Iran threatened last week to destroy Israel's Dimona nuclear reactor should the Jewish state attack Iran's nuclear facilities.
In late July Israeli military Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Moshe Yaalon issued a tacit warning about Iran's nuclear weapons program.
"In the past few days, the past two weeks, Iran in essence broke the rules of the game of the International Atomic Energy Agency's inspections and started operating this project again," he said in an interview with Israeli state-run television.
"We have to pay serious attention to Iran's intention to arm itself with nuclear capabilities. This should not only concern Israel, but all the countries of the free world," Yaalon added.
Iran announced last week it had successfully test-fired a new version of the Shahab-3, which has a range of 810 miles. Israel is about 600 miles west of Iran.
Iran launched an arms development program during its 1980-88 war with Iraq to compensate for a U.S. weapons embargo. Since 1992, Iran has produced its own tanks, armored personnel carriers, missiles and a fighter plane.