11 Jul 2008

Israel responds to Iran's missile tests

3:30 pm on 11 July 2008

As Iran carried out its second missile test in two days, Israel's defence minister warned of his country's readiness to act against Teheran if it feels threatened.

Ehud Barak, speaking in Tel Aviv, said Israel had "proved in the past that it won't hesitate to act when its vital security interests are at stake".

He spoke as Iran's testing of missiles that could reach Israel stoked tensions between the two, and with the United States.

But Mr Barak added that diplomatic solutions should be pursued before other options were taken up.

"Currently the focus is international sanctions and vigorous diplomatic activity, and these avenues should be exhausted," he said.

The US, which fears Tehran wants to master technology to build nuclear weapons, said on Wednesday Iran should halt further missile tests if it wanted to gain the world's trust.

Over the past two days, the Iranian military has tested missiles, including one that it says could reach Israel.

On Wedesday, Iran test-fired nine missiles capable of reaching Israel, warning the US and Israel it is ready to retaliate for any attack over its disputed nuclear projects.

Iran has said it will strike back at Tel Aviv, as well as US interests and shipping if it is hit. Tehran insists its nuclear programme has only civilian goals.

State media said missiles fired on Wednesday included a new Shahab-3, with a range of 2,000km. Iran has said Israel and US bases are in its range. Tehran has tested the missile before.

Israel has responded to the missile tests by putting on display one of its aircraft that it says can spy on Iran.

The state-run Israel Aerospace Industries says it has equipped its Eitam aeroplane, unveiled a year ago, with sophisticated intelligence-gathering systems.