Iran test-fires 3 new missiles in Gulf

Associated Press
Date: 11-03-06

By NASSER KARIMI, Associated Press Writer

TEHRAN, Iran - Iran test-fired three new sea missiles in the Persian Gulf Friday, indicating that the maneuvers should send a clear message to the U.S. not to conduct any more military exercises in the area.

Iranian state television broadcast footage of the Revolutionary Guards firing naval-warfare missiles with a range of about 106 miles. It was the second day in a row that Iran had announced the development and testing of missiles in the maneuvers.

The tests and exercises came only days after the U.S. conducted naval maneuvers in the Gulf, and as U.N. Security Council members wrangle over what steps to take against Iran for ignoring its call to cease uranium enrichment - a key step in making nuclear bombs.

"Our enemies should keep their hostility out of the Persian Gulf," said Adm. Sardar Fadavi, the deputy chief of the Revolutionary Guards navy.

"They should not initiate any move that would make the region tense," Fadavi said in a clear reference to the United States. The admiral was speaking to state radio about the U.S.-led maneuvers, which ended Monday. Tehran called the exercises "adventurist."

Fadavi said the missiles tested Friday demonstrated Iran's naval capabilities, and had been "improved by our domestic technology" - implying they were based on weapons Iran had acquired.

Iran is widely believed to have bought missile technology from North Korea. Its ballistic missile, the Shahab-3, is thought to be based on North Korea's Nodong missile and it was one of dozens of rockets fired Thursday.

Iranian TV said the new naval missiles - named Noor, Kowsar, and Nasr - had a range 30 miles greater than its existing warship rockets.

Fadavi said the forces would also be testing some air-to-ground missiles during the 10-day maneuvers which began on Thursday.

The U.S. military said Friday it had taken note of Iran's missile tests.

"Countries throughout the region perform exercises on a regular basis, including Iran," said Capt. Gary Arasin at U.S. Central Command in Florida. "It's something that we monitor."

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Thursday the Iranians were "trying to demonstrate that they are tough."

"They are trying to say to the world 'you are not going to keep us from getting a nuclear weapon,'" Rice told a Cincinnati radio. "The world has to say to them, 'yes, we will.'"

Iran expert Andrew Hess, a professor of diplomacy at the Fletcher School, Tufts University, Boston, said the missile tests were part of a campaign by Iran to assert its political power in the Gulf, where most of the world's oil is extracted.

"It's a continuation of their view that the Gulf region is a sphere of Persian influence, and it ought to be the predominant power in that area," Hess said.

Hess said the Arab Gulf states were likely to be concerned about Iran's growing military power, but they would not take a strong stand against the maneuvers for fear of increasing tension.

Iran routinely denies that its maneuvers are intended to intimidate neighboring states.

"The maneuvers are not a threat to any neighboring country," Gen. Ali Fazli, the spokesman for the current war games, said Friday.

But the Gulf states have long been concerned about Iran, a Shiite Muslim country, stirring trouble in their own Shiite communities. In addition, the United Arab Emirates has a long running territorial dispute with Iran over some islands in the Gulf.

In Brussels on Friday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said his government was prepared to adopt "measures" against Iran's nuclear program, but that a European draft Security Council resolution went too far.

Lavrov declined to say what changes Russia would like to see to the draft resolution, drawn up by Britain, France and Germany. But he said: "Measures which we would introduce would have to be reasonable, take account of the real situation, should be proportional to the actual situation with regards to the nuclear program in Iran."

The European draft calls for sanctions including a U.N. ban on the supply of material and technology that could contribute to Iran's nuclear and missile programs. It would also impose a travel ban and asset freeze on companies, individuals and organizations involved in those programs.

The Western powers fear that Iran could use its nuclear program to produce weapons. Iran denies this, saying its program is limited to the generation of electricity from nuclear fuel.


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