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  Iran Test Fires 3 New Missiles in Gulf

AP | November 3, 2006

Iran has successfully test-fired three new models of sea missiles in a show of force to assert its military capacities in the Gulf, military officials said Friday.

Television showed footage of the elite Revolutionary Guards firing the missiles from warships and from mobile launching pads on the shore.

Iranian forces have previously test-fired missiles in the crowded Gulf waters, but the new maneuvers, which began on Thursday, appeared to be Iran's response to a U.S.-led military exercise held earlier this week in the same zone.

''The maneuvers are not a threat to any neighboring country,'' said Gen. Ali Fazli, the spokesman for the Iranian war games.

Iran nonetheless insisted the new sea missiles enhanced its military muscle in the Gulf, where most of the world's oil is extracted.

The weapons are ''suitable for covering all the Strait of Hormuz, the Persian gulf and the sea of Oman,'' said Adm. Sardar Fadavi, the deputy navy chief of the Revolutionary Guard.

Some 20 percent of the world's oil supply passes every day through the strategic Strait of Hormuz.

The three new types of missiles, named Noor, Kowsar, and Nasr, have a range of about 106 miles and were built for naval warfare, TV reported. Iranian sea missiles previously had a range of 75 miles, TV quoted Fadavi as saying.

The new tests demonstrate Iran's military capacities at sea, the admiral said.

State TV said the new missiles were Iranian-made and could be used in lant-to-sea or sea-to-sea warfare. It did not give more details about the weapons.

The Revolutionary Guards began the maneuvers, named ''Great Prophet,'' on Thursday by firing dozens of long-range missiles in a desert area of central Iran.

Iran insisted the renewed saber-rattling was not intended at intimidating countries in the region. ''We are in good interaction with our neighbors,'' said Fazli, the military spokesman.

On Thursday, however, Iran said it hoped the war games would send world powers a strong message. ''We want to show our deterrent and defensive power to trans-regional enemies, and we hope they will understand the message,'' the head of the Revolutionary Guards, Gen. Yahya Rahim Safavi, said in a clear reference to the United States, Britain and France, who were among the six nations that took part in the Gulf maneuvers this week.

Iran called ''adventurist'' the U.S.-led naval exercise that ended on Monday, criticizing Arab states that took part and saying Gulf nations would be safer if they organized their own security alliance --an implicit criticism of American military presence in the region.

The U.S. Fifth fleet is stationed in Bahrain, a tiny oil kingdom located across the Gulf from Iran.

Iran remains locked in dispute with the West over its nuclear program, which Washington says is geared to producing atomic weapons but Tehran says is only for generating electricity.

Asked about Thursday's maneuvers, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said she thought the Iranians ''are trying to demonstrate that they are tough.''

The Islamic Republic has already held three large-scale military exercises this year. In its April exercises, Iran tested what it called an ''ultra-horizon'' missile, which is fired from helicopters and jet fighters, and the Fajr-3 missile, which can reportedly evade radar and use multiple warheads to hit several targets simultaneously.

While U.S. officials have suggested that Iran is exaggerating the capabilities of its newly developed weapons, Washington and its allies have been watching the country's progress in missile technology with concern.

The U.S.-led maneuvers that finished Monday focused on surveillance, with warships tracking a vessel suspected of carrying nuclear components or illegal weapons. The nations that took part were Australia, Bahrain, Britain, France, Italy and the United States.

The U.N. Security Council is considering imposing sanctions on Iran, which has ignored demands that it cease uranium enrichment, a process that can produce the fuel for nuclear reactors or material for atomic bombs.

Russia, a veto yielding power at the Security Council, said it opposed the U.N. sanctions in their current form.

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