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Published: Wednesday, 7/4/2012

Iran claims successful missile test

BLADE NEWS SERVICES

TEHRAN -- Iran said Tuesday that it had successfully tested medium-range missiles capable of hitting Israel and some U.S. military bases in the region, the latest move in a war of nerves with the West.

Iran's official English-language Press TV said the Shahab 3 missile with a range of 800 miles was tested along with the shorter-range Shahab 1 and 2.

Gen. Hossein Salami, acting commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guards, told state TV that the tests were a response to refusal by Israel and the United States to rule out military strikes to stop Iran's nuclear program.

"It is a response to the political impoliteness of those who talk about all options being on the table," General Salami said.

The official IRNA news agency said the surface-to-surface missiles successfully hit their targets in a war-games exercise. The semiofficial Fars said the salvos included the so-called Shahab-3 missile.

Israel is about 600 miles away from Iran's western borders, and the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet is based in Bahrain, about 120 miles from Iranian shores in the Persian Gulf.

The Iranian commander quoted by Fars said Iran used unmanned and manned bombers in the war games and was firing a variety of other missiles. Tehran says the drills aim to assess the accuracy and effectiveness of its weapons systems.

In Washington, State Department spokesman Victoria Nuland said the United States remains "deeply concerned" over Iran's missile development.

She said the drills are in violation of a U.N. Security Council resolution that "prohibits Iran from undertaking any activity related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons."

A European Union oil embargo intended to pressure Iran over its nuclear program went into effect Sunday.

The West suspects the Islamic Republic wants to build nuclear weapons and Israel has hinted at an attack if diplomatic efforts and sanctions fail to eliminate what it sees as a direct threat.

Iran insists its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes, such as power generation and cancer treatment.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad acknowledged Tuesday that new sanctions imposed by Western powers are the strictest and most severe ever imposed, but he said they would have no impact on the Iranian position in the dispute over its nuclear energy activities.

The statement by Mr. Ahmadinejad was his first public appraisal of the new sanctions, which are aimed at crippling Iran's oil industry.

He said Iran should turn the sanctions into an "opportunity to eliminate the country's current reliance on oil revenue and take away from the enemy the use of oil as a weapon for imposing sanctions."

Iran relies on oil exports for 80 percent of its national budget.

By some industry calculations, Iranian oil exports have already fallen by 40 percent so far this year, and the country is losing billions of dollars a month.

Iran's missile tests were conducted as the United States ramps up its presence in the Persian Gulf.

The Pentagon recently doubled the number of minesweepers in the region, giving the U.S. military greater flexibility to counter any Iranian effort to mine the Strait of Hormuz at the mouth of the Gulf.

Iran has repeatedly threatened to close the strategic waterway, which is the transit route for about one fifth of the world's oil supply, in retaliation for increased Western-led sanctions.

Lt. Cmdr. Kyle Raines, a spokesman for the 5th Fleet in Bahrain, said the four additional minesweepers arrived in the region on June 23. They join four similar ships normally assigned to the naval force.

Another ship, the USS Ponce, also entered the 5th Fleet's area of operation, which includes the Gulf region, and is scheduled to arrive in Bahrain later this week.

The U.S. military also stations fighter jets and other aircraft at air bases in friendly Arab nations across the Gulf from Iran.



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