Iran's military chief comes out in support of nuclear deal

DUBAI (Reuters) - Iran's military chief and a close ally to the Supreme Leader expressed his support on Saturday for the country's nuclear deal with world powers, a key endorsement for the accord that faces strong opposition from hardliners. Conservative members of the Iranian parliament and chief commander of the elite Revolutionary Guards, Mohammad Ali Jafari, have sharply criticized the deal, saying it undermined the Islamic Republic's military capabilities. While Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has not publicly approved or disapproved of the deal, he has told officials and experts to take legal procedures to ensure the other side does not breach it, saying some of the world powers involved were untrustworthy. Major General Hassan Firouzabadi listed 16 "advantages" to the deal, which Iran signed in Vienna in July, without detailing any drawbacks. "The armed forces have the most concerns about the effect of the deal on Iran's defense capabilities ... but this agreement and the U.N. Security Council resolution have many advantages that the critics ignore," Firouzabadi was quoted as saying by Fars News Agency. The agreement, a major initiative for both U.S. President Barack Obama and Iran's pragmatic President Hassan Rouhani, has been met with resistance from hardliners in both countries. "The tone of the U.N. Security Council resolution has changed compared to the previous ones. Regarding Iran's missile activities, it doesn't order but only asks for Iran's compliance," Firouzabadi said, referring to an international resolution passed in the wake of the deal. Iran's procedures for ratifying the accord are not known in any detail. Whatever the eventual role of parliament or the National Security Council, the deal will have to be approved by Khamenei, the country's highest authority. (Reporting by Bozorgmehr Sharafedin; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)