Iran test-fires long-range missiles

The missile drills of the elite Revolutionary Guards coincide with escalating 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.

News of the nuclear fuel facility south of Tehran added a sense of urgency to the rare meeting in Geneva on Thursday between Iranian officials and representatives of six major powers, including the US, China and Russia.

US Defence Secretary Robert Gates, who says any military action against Iran would only “buy time” and stresses the need for diplomacy, mentioned possible new sanctions on banking and equipment and technology for Iran’s oil and gas industry.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry said there was no link between the missile manoeuvres and the country’s nuclear activities.

“This is a military drill which is deterrent in nature,” spokesman Hassan Qashqavi said. Press TV said the Shahab 3, a surface-to-surface missile with a range of up to 2,000 km, was “successfully” test-fired on the second day of an exercise that got under way on Sunday, when short and medium-range missiles were launched.
Such a range would put Israel and the US bases in the region within striking distance.

“All targets within the region, no matter where they are, will be within the range of these missiles,” General Hossein Salami, commander of the Guards’ air force, said.
The US and its Western allies have made clear they will focus on Iran’s nuclear programme at the Geneva meeting. Iran has offered wide-ranging security talks but says it will not discuss its nuclear “rights”.

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