Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Iran tests another ballistic missile.

Reporting from Tehran - Iranian authorities confronted their domestic and international rivals today, testing a high-speed missile and warning reformist opposition leaders that they had crossed the line.

The defense minister, Brig. Gen. Ahmad Vahidi, lauded the successful test of an upgraded version of the Sejjil-II missile for "its remarkable speed in entering the atmosphere, its strong impact and its radar-evading covers" and for its quick launch time, state television reported.

Launch of the surface-to-surface missile and the speech by Vahdi were broadcast.

"In the name of Imam Hussein and the martyrs of Karbala, you shall initialize the launch," Vahidi said as the rocket took off, referring to one of Shiite Islam's most revered figures and his entourage. "God is great. God is great, God is great."

The two-stage, solid-fuel, medium-range Sejjil is considered more accurate than the liquid-fueled missiles Iran previously used. Iranian analysts say the upgraded version includes mobile launch platforms that make it difficult to target in airstrikes.

With a 1,200-mile range it can easily reach Iran's regional nemesis Israel. But Vahidi said that the missile, which he boasted had been designed and produced by Iranian military experts at his ministry's Aerospace Organization, was for the sole purpose of defending Iran.

"The missile test we observed today was only a link in our defense chain aimed at boosting our armed forces deterrence," he said. "Iran's missile capability is merely defensive and is to serve peace, stability and calm in the region. It will never be fired against any other country."

The West fears that Iran's push to master missile technology, coupled with its nuclear ambitions, is aimed at ultimately producing atomic weapons, which could further destabilize the Middle East and spur an arms race.

French Foreign Ministry spokesman Bernard Valero said the missile test today, amid stalled talks over Iran's nuclear program, "send the international community a very bad signal," according to Agence France-Presse.

"A test of this kind can only strengthen the international community's worries at a time that Iran is also developing a nuclear program with no identifiable civil objective, in violation of five United Nations Security Council resolutions," he said.

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