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Archive for Monday, May 27, 2002

Iran confirms ballistic missile test

May 27, 2002

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— Iran confirmed recent U.S. reports Sunday that it had conducted a successful test flight of a ballistic missile capable of reaching Israel.

Defense Minister Ali Shamkhani said that Iran tested the Shahab-3 missile earlier this month, Tehran radio reported.

"To enhance the power and accuracy of Shahab-3 missile ... we will continue our missile program, and the recent successful tests were carried out in the same context," the state radio quoted Shamkhani as saying.

U.S. officials said Thursday that Iran had carried out a successful test of the Shahab-3, which has a range of about 800 miles adequate to reach Israel and U.S. troops stationed in Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Pakistan and eastern Turkey.

The test is believed to be the missile's fifth. Some tests have failed, U.S. officials said.

Shamkhani said the test "should not be considered a new production or a new step to increase the missile's range," the radio reported.

Shamkhani said Saturday that U.S. pressure on Russia and China to halt cooperation with Iran had no impact on its missile program.

"Iran's defense industries can produce any conventional weapons the political authorities may want since we are 100 percent self-sufficient in possessing the technology," Shamkhani said. "Therefore, America's pressure on various countries including Russia and China not to cooperate with Iran's missile program will have no effect."

The Shahab-3 is allegedly based on North Korea's No Dong missile. "Shahab" means shooting star in Farsi.

In Moscow on Friday, President Bush said he pressed Russian leader Vladimir Putin about nuclear help to Iran. Russia insists the technology is being used for nonmilitary purposes.

Also Sunday, Shamkhani denied reports that Iran was planning to produce Shahab-4 or Shahab-5 missiles, which would have longer ranges.

"We have no plan under the name of producing a Shahab-4 and a Shahab-5 missile in our program," the radio quoted him as saying.

U.S. intelligence officials have said Iran can probably fire several Shahab-3s in an emergency but that it has not yet developed a completely reliable weapon.

Iran launched an arms development program during its 1980-1988 war with Iraq to compensate for weapons shortages caused by a U.S. embargo. Since 1992, Iran has produced its own tanks, armored personnel carriers, missiles and a fighter plane.

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