Iran tests missiles 'in response to threats'

Iran test-fired nine long and medium-range missiles today during war games that officials said were in response to US and Israeli threats, state television reported.

Iran test-fired nine long and medium-range missiles today during war games that officials said were in response to US and Israeli threats, state television reported.

General Hossein Salami, the Revolutionary Guards navy commander, said the exercise, dubbed The Great Prophet 3, would “demonstrate our resolve and might against enemies who in recent weeks have threatened Iran with harsh language.”

The drill was conducted in the Persian Gulf and the strategic Strait of Hormouz.

The television reports said the missiles fired included a new version of the Shahab-3 missile, which officials have said has a range of 1,250 miles. The Shahab-3 is equipped with a conventional warhead weighing one ton, it said.

The missile tests come less than a day after Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad dismissed fears that Israel and the US could be preparing to attack his country, calling the possibility a “funny joke.”

“I assure you that there won’t be any war in the future,” Mr Ahmadinejad told a news conference during a visit to Malaysia for a summit of developing Muslim nations.

Iranian officials have been issuing a mix of conciliatory and aggressive statements in recent weeks about the possibility of a clash with the US and Israel.

Israel’s military sent warplanes over the eastern Mediterranean for a large military exercise last month that US officials described as a possible rehearsal for a strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities, which the West fears are aimed at producing atomic weapons.

Iran says its nuclear programme is geared only towards generating electricity, not weapons.

For months, Mr Ahmadinejad and other Iranian officials have said they do not believe the US will attack because of its difficulties in Iraq, domestic worries and concerns over the fallout in the region.

At the same time, Tehran has stepped up its warnings of retaliation if the Americans – or Israelis – do attack, including threats to hit Israel and US Gulf bases with missiles and stop oil traffic through the vital Gulf region.

Today’s war games were being conducted at the mouth of the Strait of Hormouz, a strategic waterway where about 40% of the world’s oil passes through.

Late last month, Vice Admiral Kevin Cosgriff, who was then the commander of the US Navy’s 5th Fleet, said any attempt by Iran to seal off the strategic Strait of Hormuz would be viewed as an act of war. The US 5th Fleet is based in Bahrain, across the Gulf from Iran.

Last month’s Israeli exercise was widely interpreted as a show of force as well as a practice on skills needed to execute a long-range strike mission.

Shaul Mofaz, an Israeli Cabinet minister, set off an international uproar last month by saying that Israel would have “no choice” but to attack Iran if it doesn’t halt its nuclear programme.

Mr Mofaz is a former military chief and defense minister, and has been Israel’s representative in a strategic dialogue on Iran with US officials.

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