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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Iran's missile program potential greater than N.Korea's - expert

RIA Novosti

23:09 21/09/2009 MOSCOW, September 21 (RIA Novosti) - Iran's missile potential is greater today than North Korea's, the former head of a Russian defense industry research institute said on Monday.

International experts said Iran is working to develop intercontinental ballistic missiles. The Islamic Republic has Shahab-3 (Meteor-3) medium-range ballistic missiles with a range up to 2,000 kilometers (1,242 miles). North Korea provided assistance to the country to design and produce these missiles.

"Believing that Iran is not developing missiles we [the U.S.S.R.] invented back in the 1950s is naive. In my view, Iran has even greater potential and greater resources than North Korea has today," Maj.-Gen. Vladimir Dvorkin, the chief research associate of the International Security Center, told journalists in Moscow.

Dvorkin disagreed with the Russian General Staff's assessment of Iran's missile potential. "I believe statements by the Russian General Staff that Iran possesses missiles with a range of up to 1,000 km are inaccurate," he said.

Dvorkin said Iran already has missiles capable of reaching over 3,000 kilometers (1,864 miles). "And if the upper stage of the carrier rocket that took the first Iranian satellite into space is reequipped, the range could be increased to 4,000 km (2,485 miles)," he said.

He stressed that the change in the U.S. stance on missile defense in Europe is justified. "We don't know what Iran is going to use," he said.

A former top Russian general said earlier Monday that Russia and the United States could take up the issue of deploying a joint missile defense system in Europe if Iran develops long-range ballistic missiles.

U.S. President Barack Obama announced on Thursday that Washington would not deploy a radar system in the Czech Republic and a missile base in Poland due to a reassessment of the threat from Iran. Moscow fiercely opposed the Europe-based missile defense plans as a national security threat.

"Russia and the U.S. could jointly turn to this topic again in the future if Iran gets such a weapon (long-range ballistic missile), but this won't happen until at least 2015," said Col. Gen. Viktor Yesin (Ret.), who was chief of staff of the Russian Strategic Missile Forces in 1991-1993.

Yesin said the non-strategic missile defense program could not guarantee security from ballistic missiles traveling at 7 km/s (4 mi/sec). He said the short- and medium-range missiles that Iran now possesses have a speed of no more than 4.5 km/sec and could be effectively destroyed by a non-strategic missile system.

According to Yesin, should a long-range ballistic missile threaten Russia, it could use its Gabala missile defense program it has developed with Azerbaijan, or the Armavir radar station in Russia's south, which will be completed by October-November. Russia may also use its S-300 and S-400 surface-to-air missile systems.

The United States has stationary strategic missile defense systems deployed at two sites, in Alaska and California, while Russia has one based near Moscow.

In November 2008, Iran reported a second successful launch of the Kavoshgar 2 rocket into space.

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