Tehran: Iran test-fired short-range missiles as its elite Revolutionary Guards began war games on Sunday aimed at boosting the Islamic Republic’s deterrent capabilities, official media reported.
The missile 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.
State radio said the Guards on Monday would test-fire the Shahab 3 missile, which Iranian officials say has a range of around 2,000 km, potentially putting Israel and US bases in the Gulf within reach. It has been tested several times before.
Iran’s English-language Press TV said two short-range missiles as well as a multiple missile launcher were tested on the exercise’s first day.
It showed footage of a missile launch in desert-like terrain, leaving a vapour trail.
“Iran tests two short-range missiles,” it said in a scrolling headline, naming them as the ground-to-ground Fateh (Victorious) missile and the Tondar (Thunder) naval missile.
The Revolutionary Guards said “the drill aims to maintain and boost the country’s armed forces deterrent capabilities,” Press TV said.
The United States, which suspects Iran is seeking to build nuclear bombs, has previously expressed concern about Tehran’s missile programme. Iran says its nuclear work is for peaceful power generation purposes.
Iran often conducts war games or tests weapons to show its determination to counter any attack by foes such as Israel or the United States.
Neither the United States nor its ally Israel have ruled out military action if diplomacy fails to resolve the nuclear row.
Iran has said it would respond to any attack by targeting US interests in the region and Israel, as well as closing the Strait of Hormuz, a vital route for world oil supplies.
Iran acknowledged the existence of the enrichment plant near the holy city of Qom for the first time on Monday in a letter to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN nuclear watchdog.
US officials said the disclosure was designed to pre-empt an announcement by Western governments, which were aware of the site, but Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said the plant was legal and open for inspection by the IAEA.
US President Barack Obama said on Saturday the discovery of a secret nuclear plant showed a “disturbing pattern” of evasion by Iran which added urgency to its talks with six world powers in Geneva on Thursday.
An Iranian official warned that “fabricated Western clamour” over the new enrichment plant would negatively affect the talks, state radio said on Sunday.
Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran’s IAEA envoy, said, referring to the six powers: “This Western approach will have a negative impact on Iran’s negotiations with the 5+1 countries.”
Earlier this month, Obama scrapped a Bush-era plan to deploy missiles in Poland that had been proposed amid concerns Iran was trying to develop nuclear warheads it could mount on long-range missiles.