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MISSILE NEWS
Iran test-fires ballistic missile able to hit Israel: media
by Staff Writers
Tehran (AFP) July 3, 2012


US moves new forces to Gulf in sign to Iran: report
Washington (AFP) July 3, 2012 - The United States has moved new forces into the Gulf to keep strategic waterways open and strike deep within Iran in the event of a regional military escalation, the New York Times reported Tuesday.

The Times cited senior officials as saying the quiet build-up was aimed at reassuring Israel that Washington is serious about addressing Iran's nuclear program and keeping the Straits of Hormuz -- a key oil choke point -- open.

"The message to Iran is, Don't even think about it,'" it quoted a senior Defense Department official as saying.

"Don't even think about closing the strait. We'll clear the mines. Don't even think about sending your fast boats out to harass our vessels or commercial shipping. We'll put them on the bottom of the Gulf."

The Navy has doubled the number of minesweepers in the region, to eight vessels, and stealthy F-22s and older F-15C warplanes have been deployed to regional bases to reinforce existing carrier strike groups, the Times said.

US President Barack Obama has sought to roll back Iran's nuclear program though diplomatic means -- ramping up sanctions to unprecedented levels in recent months -- while not ruling out a military strike.

Western nations and Israel have accused Iran of seeking to develop nuclear weapons under the guise of a civilian uranium enrichment program, charges adamantly denied by Tehran.

Iran and the P5+1 group comprising the five UN Security Council permanent members (Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States) plus Germany plan to hold an experts-level meeting in Istanbul to discuss the dispute.

The talks were to take place between technical experts after three previous rounds earlier this year, at a more senior political level, failed to bridge the vast gap dividing the two sides.

Iran has threatened to close the strategic Strait of Hormuz at the entrance to the oil-rich Gulf if its nuclear program is targeted by air strikes.

That threat, repeated since December, helped propel oil prices to a four-year high of $128 for a barrel of Brent North Sea reference crude in early March.

Iran on Tuesday test-fired in its central desert a ballistic missile capable of striking Israel as part of war games designed to show its ability to retaliate if attacked, media said.

Iran's Revolutionary Guard fired the medium-range Shahab-3 missile at a mock target in the Kavir Desert on the second day of its Great Prophet 7 exercise, which is due to end on Wednesday, Iran's Al-Alam television network reported.

The Shahab-3 has a range of up to 2,000 kilometres (1,200 miles), which means it is theoretically able to hit Israel, which is some 1,000 kilometres away.

Al-Alam said two short-range missiles, the Shahab-1 and Shahab-2, with ranges of 300 to 500 kilometres, were also launched.

The Fars news agency said "dozens" of different types of missiles were fired from different parts of Iran at a single target in the Kavir Desert.

"In these exercises, we used missiles with a range of 2,000 kilometres, but the plan called for them to be fired only 1,300 kilometres," Fars quoted the head of the Guards aerospace division in charge of missile systems, Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, as saying.

The ISNA news agency said the last day of the drill would see Revolutionary Guard "bomber drones" also used.

Although the Islamic republic has test-fired its Shahab missiles before, and frequently holds military manoeuvres, it says these war games are aimed at sending a message to Israel and the United States to think twice on their threats of possibly attacking Iran.

"The message of these Grand Prophet 7 manoeuvres is to show the determination, the will and the power of the Iranian people in defending their national interests and core values," the number two of the Revolutionary Guards, General Hossein Salami, said, according to the official IRNA news agency.

"It's a reaction to those who are politically discourteous to the Iranian people by saying 'all options are on the table'," he said.

He added that the launches were "100 percent successful"

The exercise targeted a replica military base set up in the desert and made to look like a foreign facility, similar to those the United States has in neighbouring countries such as Afghanistan.

The launch of the Shahab-3 missile coincided with the day experts from Iran and world powers were to hold talks in Istanbul to discuss the West's push to have Tehran scale back its sensitive nuclear programme.

Israel, which is not part of the talks, and its ally the United States have both said they reserve the option of military action against Iran if diplomacy and sanctions fail to convince it to curb its atomic activities.

US President Barack Obama has said several times that "all options" remain on the table.

Iran's test-firing of its missiles also occurred on the anniversary of the July 3, 1988 shooting down of an Iranian commercial airliner by a US warship towards the end of the Iran-Iraq war.

All 290 passengers and crew on the plane died in the attack, which Washington said was the result of erroneously identifying the civilian aircraft as an Iranian fighter jet.

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