Friday, March 31, 2006

Iran test-fires new missile

Times Online:
Iran today test-fired a new missile with the ability to avoid radar and hit several targets simultaneously, the air force chief of the Revolutionary Guards has confirmed.

Iranian television described the new weapon as a "ballistic" missile, suggesting it was of comparable range to Iran’s existing ballistic rocket, the Shahab-3, which can travel 2,000 km (1,250 miles) and reach Israel and US bases in the Middle East. The Shahab-3 is also capable of carrying a nuclear warhead.

"Today, a remarkable goal of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s defence forces was realised with the successful test-firing of a new missile with greater technical and tactical capabilities than those previously produced," Gen. Hossein Salami said on state-run television.

"This missile can simultaneously hit several targets, has near stealth capabilities with a high manoeuverability, pin-point accuracy and radar avoidance features." READ MORE

Salami said the Iranian-made missile was test-fired as large military manoeuvres began in the Persian Gulf and the Arabian sea. The deployment is scheduled to last a week and will involve 17,000 members of the Revolutionary Guards as well as boats, fighter jets and helicopter gunships.

As Iran is a major oil producer, the war games have contributed to the anxiety on world oil markets over the confrontation between the UN Security Council and Iran over its nuclear programme.

Crude oil futures in London remained above US$66 a barrel on Friday as speculators expressed concern about Iran’s refusal to accept the Security Council’s call for it to cease uranium enrichment. "We’ve seen the market pause a little, but these war games in the Persian Gulf will be watched very closely for any escalation in tension," an oil broker told Dow Jones Newswires.

In Israel, a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry expressed his nation’s alarm at news of the latest Iranian missile. "This news causes much concern," said the spokesman, Mark Regev, "and that concern is shared by many countries in the international community, about Iran’s aggressive nuclear weapons programme and her parallel efforts to develop delivery systems, both in the field of ballistic missiles and cruise missiles.

"The combination of extremist jihadist ideology, together with nuclear weapons and delivery systems, is a combination that no-one in the international community can be complacent about."

Iran launched an arms development programme during its 1980-88 war with Iraq to compensate for a US weapons embargo. Since 1992, Iran has produced its own tanks, armoured personnel carriers, missiles and a fighter plane.

Meanwhile, former President Hashemi Rafsanjani said that Iran is willing to sell the weapons it produces at competitive prices. Addressing tens of thousands of worshippers at Friday prayers in Tehran University, Rafsanjani said that the country’s 1980-88 war with Iraq had made it self-reliant in armaments.

"Today, our military requirements - from jet fighters to bullets - can be produced inside the country," he said. "We can provide low-priced weapons to many countries."