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Tehran (AFP) Feb 2, 2013
Iran has trumpeted military, space and nuclear advances in a series of announcements coinciding with a new bid by world powers to revive stalled talks with Tehran over its atomic ambitions.
In an unveiling ceremony inside a hangar on Saturday, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad unveiled a futuristic-looking fighter jet he said ranks among the most sophisticated aircraft in the world, media reports said.
Code-named the Qaher (Conqueror) F-313 and shaped similar to stealth bombers, the grey warplane was designed and built domestically, Ahmadinejad told an audience of defence ministry top brass.
It "is among the most advanced fighter jets in the world," he said while insisting the F-313 was "a deterrent" meant to send a "message of peace" -- despite its aggressive name.
Defence Minister Ahmad Vahidi was quoted in media as saying the plane boasted a very low radar signature, and that "advanced materials" were used to build it.
The unveiling comes as Iran marks the 34th anniversary of the 1979 revolution, which replaced the US-backed shah with an Islamic regime.
It traditionally uses the anniversary period to showcase military, space and nuclear advances, against a backdrop of international sanctions.
Tehran is locked in a showdown with the UN Security Council over its disputed nuclear activities, including sensitive uranium enrichment which the West suspects is part of a military programme, despite Iranian denials.
The resumption of talks between Iran and world powers aimed at resolving international concerns over its activities have stalled for months.
Iranian pronouncements of achievements have increased in recent years, as Tehran desperately aims to prove the West's embargo on its military, technology and economy have failed to dent its determination.
On January 28, Iran said it sent a monkey into space to an altitude of 120 kilometres (75 miles) for a sub-orbital flight, challenging Security Council sanctions against the development of its ballistic programme.
But Iran considers its space programme as strategic and non-negotiable, echoing its stance on its nuclear activities.
The US cautiously reacted to the news, saying it could confirm it. But it said that if true, the launch violated UN resolutions.
On January 23, Iran had informed the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency of intentions to install more modern enrichment equipment at Natanz, one of its main nuclear sites.
Western powers condemned the move, with Washington describing it as a "provocation" in Iran's continuing violations of its obligations.
Israel, the sole but undeclared nuclear state in the Middle East which refuses to rule out a military strike against Iran, warned the advanced machines would edge Tehran closer to nuclear arms.
The developments come as the so-called P5+1 group of the United States, Britain, China, France, Russia plus Germany are painfully trying to revive the nuclear talks with Iran and prevent a military solution, threatened by the US and Israel.
The last round of such talks held June in Moscow ended with a stalemate, as did previous rounds.
A new round is in the offing, possibly in February, but the sides have failed to agree on date and venue, blaming each other.
To further its defiance, Tehran announced this week it would launch "in the coming days" a new observation satellite, while two new space projects are expected to be announced Saturday.
US ready for nuclear talks with Iran: Biden
"We would be prepared to meet bilaterally with the Iranian leadership... that offer stands but it must be real and tangible," he told the Munich Security Conference.
"There has to be an agenda that they are prepared to speak to. We're not just prepared to do it for the exercise," he added, speaking on the second day of the annual three-day gathering in southern Germany.
Kicking off his three-nation European tour that will also take in Paris and London, Biden warned Iran in a German newspaper interview Friday that opportunities for diplomacy were not unlimited but offered direct talks between Washington and Tehran.
"There is still time, there is still space for diplomacy, backed by pressure, to succeed," Biden told participants in Munich.
"The ball is in the government of Iran's court and it's well past time for Tehran to adopt a serious good faith approach to negotiations," he added.
Iran and six world powers -- the US, China, Russia, Britain, France and Germany -- held three rounds of talks last year aimed at easing the standoff over Iran's nuclear activities.
The six, known as the P5+1, called on Iran to scale back its programme but stopped short of meeting Tehran's demands to reduce sanctions. The last round ended in stalemate in June in Moscow.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said here that "mistrust" must be overcome and that Iran needed to be convinced it was "not about regime change."
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