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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Iran carries out new long-range missile tests in Gulf

RIA Novosti

10/07/2008 16:15 TEHRAN, July 10 (RIA Novosti) - Iran test-fired a series of long and medium-range missiles in the Persian Gulf on Thursday, a day after drawing international criticism for missile exercises in the Strait of Hormuz, state media reported.

The latest nighttime drills are likely to increase tensions surrounding Iran's nuclear program and fuel speculation of a possible preemptive strike from Israel, which recently conducted drills seen as preparation for an attack on Iranian nuclear facilities.

News channel Press TV said: "The Islamic Revolution Guards Corps successfully test-fired various classes of missiles on Thursday including shore-to-sea, surface-to-surface and sea-to-air missiles in what is now the third day of a large-scale military maneuver dubbed Great Prophet III."

The reports emerged soon after the U.S. secretary of state said Washington would defend Israel against any threats of aggression from Iran.

"We are sending a message to Iran that we will defend American interests and the interests of our allies," Condoleezza Rice said on Thursday during her visit to Georgia.

"We take very, very strongly our obligation to help our allies defend themselves and no one should be confused about that," she said.

Rice also said Wednesday's drills, which included a test firing of the Shahab-3 missile with a range of 2000 km (1.240 miles), proved the need for a missile shield in Central Europe.

The missile shield plans, purportedly intended for defense against a potential Iranian strike, have been criticized by Russia, which has said Iran will not develop missiles capable of hitting Europe in the foreseeable future.

The range of the Shahab-3 would allow it to reach Israel, Pakistan, and U.S. bases in the Persian Gulf region.

The United States has consistently refused to rule out a military strike against Iran if it refuses to halt its nuclear energy program, which Western countries believe is a cover for a weapons program.

European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana is expected to meet with Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, later this month to discuss the latest international proposals aimed at persuading the country to drop its nuclear ambitions.

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