Iran raises nuclear tension by test-firing missiles

Iran said it successfully test-fired short-range missiles during military drills by the elite Revolutionary Guard on Sept. 27, a show of force coming just days after the West warned Tehran about a newly-revealed underground nuclear facility Iran was secretly constructing.

CA Online and wire services

2009-09-30

TEHRAN — Iran said it successfully test-fired short-range missiles during military drills by the elite Revolutionary Guard on Sept. 27, a show of force coming just days after the West warned Tehran about a newly-revealed underground nuclear facility Iran was secretly constructing.

Revolutionary Guard Air Force Gen. Hossein Salami said Iran also tested a multiple missile launcher for the first time. The official English-language Press TV showed pictures of at least two missiles being fired simultaneously and said they were from the drill in a central Iranian desert.

"We will respond with force to any military action, and it doesn't make any difference which country or regime has launched the aggression," state media quoted Salami as saying. He claimed the missiles successfully hit their targets.

The powerful Revolutionary Guard defends Iran's clerical rulers, but has its own ground, naval and air units. Its air force controls the country's missile programme.

The tests came two days after Western allies disclosed that Iran had been secretly developing a previously unknown underground uranium enrichment facility and warned the country it must open the nuclear site to international inspection or face harsher international sanctions.

The newly-revealed nuclear site in the arid mountains near the holy city of Qom is believed to be inside a heavily guarded, underground Revolutionary Guard facility.

Nuclear experts say the details that have emerged about the site and the fact that it was being developed secretly are strong indications that Iran's nuclear programme is not just for peaceful purposes, as the country has long maintained.

Salami said Iran would test medium-range Shahab-1 and Shahab-2 missiles on Sept. 27 and a longer-range Shahab-3 missile on Sept. 28 during drills set to last several days. The short-range Fateh and Tondar missiles were tested, but he did not give specifics on range or other details.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said the disclosure of the nuclear facility was a success for Iran. Others “may pursue this issue through the media, but it has become a firm blow to their arrogance," he said in a reference to the U.S. and Western powers.

Experts estimate that Iran's current number of centrifuges could enrich sufficient quantities of uranium for a nuclear weapon in as little as a year.

[AP]

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