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Iran Adds ‘Strategic Missile’ to Arsenal

From Associated Press

Iran has added a “strategic missile” to its arsenal after a successful test, and the country is ready to confront any external threat, the nation’s defense minister told state-run radio Saturday.

The radio report did not say whether the test involved the previously announced new version of the Shahab-3 rocket -- capable of reaching Israel and U.S. forces stationed in the Middle East -- or a different missile.

“This strategic missile was successfully test-fired during military exercises by the Revolutionary Guards and delivered to the armed forces,” Defense Minister Ali Shamkhani was quoted as saying. The exercises were held Sept. 12 through Sept. 18.

Shamkhani refused to reveal details about the missile for “security reasons” but said Iran was “ready to confront all regional and extra-regional threats.”

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The report came amid a war of words between Iran and Israel as the former faces increasing international pressure over its nuclear program.

The Bush administration suspects that Iran is trying to develop atomic weapons. Iranian officials have said the country’s nuclear program is a peaceful one.

The U.N. atomic watchdog agency has demanded that Iran freeze its uranium-enrichment activities. Enriched uranium can be used as fuel in a nuclear reactor or a bomb.

Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom has called Iran a worldwide threat whose missiles can reach London, Paris and southern Russia.

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This month, Israel said it was buying about 500 “bunker-buster” bombs from the United States, which are believed to be capable of destroying Iranian nuclear facilities. In 1981, Israel bombed a nuclear reactor in Iraq before it could begin operating.

Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi has warned that Tehran will react “most severely” to any Israeli strike against its nuclear facilities. Israel is believed to be the only nation in the Middle East that has nuclear weapons, although Israeli officials have refused to confirm it.

In August, Iran said it test-fired a new version of the Shahab-3. The Defense Ministry did not give its range, but Israeli sources said it could reach targets more than 1,200 miles away, 400 miles farther than its previous range.


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