28 Sep 2009

Iran missile tests go from short to medium to long

9:43 pm on 28 September 2009

Iran state television has announced that long-range missiles have been test-fired. This follows the firing of short- and medium-range missiles as part of several days of war games.

The manoeuvres coincide with increased tension in Iran's nuclear dispute with the West, after last week's disclosure by Tehran that it is building a second uranium enrichment plant.

The long-range missile are Sajjil and Shahab-3 rockets, which are believed to have a range of around 2,000 km, potentially putting Israel and US bases in the Gulf within reach. It was last tested in mid-2008.

Air Force Brigadier General Hossein Salami says the series of tests reflects Iran's determination to defend itself; and the daily newspaper Iran News puts it this way: "Iran flexes muscles ... The tests are likely to be seen as an act of defiance by Iran."

Sense of urgency to Geneva meeting

News of the plant near Qom ,southwest of Tehran, has added a sense of urgency to a crucial meeting in Geneva on Thursday between Iranian officials and representatives of six major powers.

The US and its Western allies intend to focus on Iran's nuclear programme at the meeting. Iran for its part has offered wide-ranging security talks but says it will not discuss its nuclear "rights".

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad insists the Qom plant does not breach UN regulations and is open for international inspection.

Neither the US nor its ally Israel has ruled out military action if diplomacy fails to resolve the nuclear row.