Iran test-fires long- and medium-range missiles

Iran has test-fired nine long- and medium-range missiles, including one which it has previously said could reach Israel and United States bases in the region, state media reported on Wednesday.

The tests occurred at a time of increased tension between Iran and Israel over Tehran’s disputed nuclear programme, which the West fears is aimed at making bombs. Iran says its nuclear programme is only for power generation.

State Press TV said the missiles tested by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards included a “new” Shahab 3 missile, which officials have said could reach targets 2 000km away.

On Tuesday, an aide to Iran’s Supreme Leader was quoted as saying the Islamic Republic would hit Tel Aviv, US shipping in the Gulf and US interests around the world if it was attacked over its nuclear activities.

The comments intensified a war of words that has raised fears of military confrontation and helped boost world oil prices to record highs in the past few weeks.

Leaders of the Group of Eight rich countries expressed serious concern at the proliferation risks posed by Iran’s nuclear programme.

In a statement issued after G8 leaders met in Hokkaido, northern Japan, the grouping urged Tehran to suspend all uranium enrichment related activities.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy said major world powers had decided to send European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana to Iran for talks on an incentives package they offered last month to induce Tehran to change its nuclear policy.

Sarkozy did not say when Solana would travel to Tehran. Iran formally replied on Friday to the offer by the United States, France, Britain, China, Russia and Germany.

France said Iran’s response had ignored the world powers’ demand for a suspension of uranium enrichment before talks on implementing the package—a condition rejected on Monday as “illegitimate” by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

In Prague, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said there were ways that Iran might wish to talk to Solana or others in order to get that suspension to take place. - Reuters



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