Iranian navy in the Gulf on Friday
Photo: MCT

Iran denies testing long-range missiles

Senior Navy commander claims testing of long-range missiles has been delayed, state TV says, contradicting earlier reports; Tehran's nuclear negotiator to ask EU to resume atom talks, Mehr news agency says

Iran's senior navy commander denied state media reports that the Islamic Republic had test-fired long-range missiles during a naval drill on Saturday, saying the missiles would be launched in the coming days.


Mahmoud Mousavi told Iran's English-language Press TV "the exercise of launching missiles will be carried out in the coming days."


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The semi-official Fars news agency, Press TV and the state-run IRNA news agency had earlier reported that Iran had test-fired long-range and other missiles during the exercise on Saturday. 


"All kinds of surface-to-sea, sea-to-sea and surface-to-air as well as shoulder-launched missiles will be tested in the coming days," Mousavi told Press TV.

חיילי צבא איראן בתמרון הימי (צילם: EPA) 

Iranian navy drill in the Gulf (Photo: EPA)


Another Iranian news agency later reported that Tehran's nuclear negotiator would write to the European Union offering to resume nuclear talks with major powers.


The 10-day naval drill in the Gulf began last week as Iran showed its resolve to counter any attack by enemies such as Israel or the United States.


Tehran threatened on Tuesday to stop the flow of oil through the Strait of Hormuz in the Gulf if it became the target of an oil embargo over its nuclear ambitions, a move that could trigger military conflict with countries dependent on Gulf oil.


Tensions with the West have risen since the UN nuclear watchdog reported on November 8 that Iran appears to have worked on designing an atomic bomb and may still be pursuing research to that end.


Iran denies this and says it needs nuclear technology to generate electricity to meet growing domestic demand.


Letter to Ashton

The semi-official Mehr news agency quoted a senior official as saying that nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili would write to EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton to express Tehran's readiness for fresh nuclear talks with major powers.


"Jalili will soon send a letter to Catherine Ashton over the format of negotiations ... then fresh talks will take place with major powers," said Iran's ambassador to Germany Alireza Sheikh Attar.


Talks between Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France, plus Germany (P5+1) stalled in January.


The EU is considering a ban – already in place in the United States – on imports of Iranian oil, although diplomats and traders say awareness is growing in the EU that such a ban could damage the bloc's economy without doing much to hurt Iran.


Iranian Oil Minister Rostam Qasemi said imposing sanctions on Iran's oil exports would lead to a leap in prices.


"Undoubtedly the price of crude will increase dramatically if sanctions are imposed on our oil ... It will reach at least over $200 per barrel," the Aseman weekly quoted Qasemi on Saturday as saying. 


During military drills in 2009, Iran test-fired its surface-to-surface Shahab-3 missile, said to be capable of reaching Israel and US bases in the Middle East.


Washington has expressed concern about Tehran's missiles, which include the Shahab-3 strategic intermediate range ballistic missile with a range of up to 1,000 km (625 miles), the Ghadr-1 with an estimated 1,600 km range and a Shahab-3 variant known as Sajjil-2 with a range of up to 2,400 km.


Iranian media have said the naval exercise differed from previous ones in terms of "the vastness of the area of action and the military equipment and tactics that are being employed".




פרסום ראשון: 12.31.11, 08:54
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