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Iran tests Shahab missile capable of reaching Israel

Iran announced the test-firing of a Shahab-3 ballistic missile capable of traveling 2,000 kilometers (1,243 miles), a range that puts Israel's major cities within reach.

The Shahab-3 „bears various modifications for improved efficiency and higher capability” and was „launched successfully,” the state-run Fars news agency reported yesterday, without providing details. A Shahab-3 tested in 1998 had a range of about 1,300 kilometers. Former President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani said in 2004 that the missile would be improved to extend the range. The test, which took place during military exercises, came as the US is pressing the United Nations Security Council to impose sanctions on Iran for defying a UN deadline to stop enriching uranium. President George W. Bush says Iran's nuclear program is a cover for weapons development, while Iranian officials insist the effort is to produce energy. Iran, a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, says the uranium is needed to supply power stations. Iran's latest claim for the missile's reach is „plausible,” said Duncan Lennox, editor of Jane's Strategic Weapon Systems journal, in a telephone interview from London. The test illustrates „a continuation of Iran's development of missile capabilities, no less and no more,” he said. Bush has said he wants a diplomatic solution to the nuclear dispute, though he hasn't ruled out military action. US State Department spokesman Sean McCormack described the test as „saber rattling” that „underscores the fact that Iran, is at this point in time, with this regime, not a source of stability in the region.”

A draft UN resolution, drawn up by European governments and backed by the US, would freeze the financial assets of people or „entities” associated with Iran's nuclear and ballistic missile programs. Russia and China have said the proposed penalties go too far and more talks with Iran are needed. The Shahab-3 carried „cluster warheads,” Agence France-Presse reported, citing Iranian state-run television. It was launched from the desert near Qom, about 120 kilometers from Tehran, AFP cited the network as saying. Iran's war games, which began yesterday, involve the four forces of the Revolutionary Guards, its commander, Yahya Rahim Safavi, was cited as saying on Wednesday by Fars. The maneuvers are mainly „a show of national power and determination for widespread defense in the face of threats,” he said. Iran's military exercises follow naval maneuvers led by the US in the Persian Gulf earlier this week.

The US, joined by the UK, Australia, France, Italy and Bahrain, deployed naval forces in international waters off the northeastern coast of Bahrain to practice procedures for preventing the transfer of weapons of mass destruction, the Bahrain-based US 5th Fleet said in an e-mailed statement. Some of those countries will become involved in enforcing sanctions against North Korea, which tested a nuclear bomb on October 9. The Iranian war games will last until November 11. The operation will be spread across a third of the country's 30 provinces and will focus on the Persian Gulf, the military said. Israel in December successfully carried out a test of its Arrow missile-defense system, which could provide protection from Iran's Shahab missiles. The Arrow missile interceptors were made with Boeing Co. parts. The US Congress has given $1.5 billion to Israel's Arrow program since the late 1980s, amid worries that the country was vulnerable to attack from nearby adversaries such as Syria and Iran. (Bloomberg)