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Updated: September 28, 2009 18:55 IST

Iran tests long-range missiles

Atul Aneja
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In this photo released by the Iranian semi-official Fars News Agency, Revolutionary Guard's Tondar missile is launched in a drill near the city of Qom, 130 km south Tehran, Iran on Sunday. Photo: AP
In this photo released by the Iranian semi-official Fars News Agency, Revolutionary Guard's Tondar missile is launched in a drill near the city of Qom, 130 km south Tehran, Iran on Sunday. Photo: AP

As the countdown for Thursday’s talks with the global powers begins, Iran has fired long-range missiles including a solid fuelled weapon which can target several destinations in the region.

“An improved version of Shahab-3 and the two-stage Sajjil, powered by solid fuel, were fired,” Hossein Salami the Air Force commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) was quoted as saying by the state-owned Arabic language Al-Alam television channel.

These missiles were tested on Monday during Iran’s Great Prophet IV military exercises. They have sufficient range to target Israel, bases of the United States in the Gulf, as well as parts of southern Europe.

Analysts point out that the firing of the Sajjil rocket is especially significant. Like the Shahab-3, Sajjil rockets have a range of around 2,000 km. However, Sajjil missiles are powered by an easier-to-handle solid fuel, which makes them more suitable as battlefield weapons.

Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency quoted General Salami as saying that Iran had developed the know-how to fire its missiles from mobile launchers. These vehicle-mounted missiles, because of their higher manoeuvrability can better survive hostile air raids. They also enhance the fire power of advancing tank columns.

The Iranians appear to have improved their liquid-fuelled Shahab system. Iranian media reports say the Shahab missiles equipped with multiple warheads, which can attack several targets simultaneously, have been tested during the current manoeuvres. These missiles can carry a payload of around 1,000 kg.

Iran’s show of strength ahead of the October 1 talks with five permanent members of the Security Council and Germany are expected to enhance tensions. They follow Iran’s disclosure on September 21 that it is working on a new uranium enrichment site. The revelation drew an angry response from the West, and appeared to reinforce the case for more sanctions against Tehran.

On Sunday, Iran’s Parliament Speaker, Ali Larijani said that Western powers were seeking to draw psychological advantage ahead of Thursdays talks.

“Such efforts are primarily designed to impose the Western will on Iran and force the country into submission during the upcoming negotiations,” said Mr. Larijani, who had earlier represented Iran during nuclear negotiations with the Europeans.

“Even after we launched the facility in Isfahan, [U.S. and European countries] raised serious concerns over the nature of enrichment plant. This is while they were well aware the product of the company is UF6, which is by no means threatening,” he said.

Mr. Larijani said that that the West was at loggerheads with Iran, because Iranian nuclear technology was home-grown, and enhanced Tehran’s regional status.

Amid growing tensions, Iran’s neighbour, Iraq, has said it would not allow foreign powers to use Iraqi air space to attack Iran.

“Iraq will never permit any country to use Iraqi land or sky in any war and any aggression,” Iraqi President Jalal Talabani has said.

Mr. Talabani said the six major powers dealing with the Iran nuclear issue should conduct “a real negotiation” with Iran and ensure that Tehran had the right to make peaceful use of atomic energy.

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