Mon, Aug 21, 2006 - Page 6 News List

Iran tests missiles in war games

RESPONSE Tehran said that it would give its answer tomorrow to the package of Western incentives aimed at getting it to halt its nuclear enrichment program

AP , TEHRAN

Iran test-fired 10 surface-to-surface short-range missiles yesterday, as a military training plane crashed outside the capital after catching fire, state-run television reported.

The missile testing came a day after Iran launched a series of large-scale military maneuvers geared at testing the country's new defensive doctrine.

"Saegheh, the missile, has a range of between 80 to 250 kilometers," the TV said.

It said the missile was tested in the Kashan desert, about 250km southeast of Tehran. Saegheh means lightning in Farsi.

The military did not specify whether the new missile was capable of carrying a nuclear warhead.

State-run TV also reported that a small military training plane had crashed yesterday. The plane was not taking part in the military maneuvers, the TV said, stating the crash was due to technical failures.

The broadcast said the plane was making an emergency landing on a highway in northeast Tehran when one of its wings hit a water reservoir and it burst into flames and crashed.

The TV said the only pilot in the plane parachuted safely.

Iran routinely holds war games to test the military equipment it builds at home since the US ban was enforced. But the new tests, in the wake of the Lebanon-Hezbollah fighting against Israel, seemed certain to create new tensions with the West.

The Iranian military said the maneuvers reflected the current level of tension in the Middle East.

"We have to be prepared against any threat and we should be a role model for other countries," local newspapers quoted army spokesman General Mohammad Reza Ashtiani, as saying last week.

He said the maneuvers -- called "The Blow of Zolfaghar" in reference to a sword that belonged to Imam Ali, one of the holiest figures of Islam for Shiite Muslims -- were aimed at "introducing Iran's new defensive doctrine."

State-run television said the missile was built based on domestic know-how, although outside experts say much of the country's missile technology originated from other countries.

State-run TV showed video showing 10 missiles being launched from mobile launching pads.

Iran said its military exercises launched Saturday are being held in 14 of the country's 30 provinces and could last as long as five weeks.

Meanwhile, Iran will offer a "multifaceted response" to a Western package of incentives aimed at persuading it to suspend uranium enrichment activities, but insisted yesterday it would not cease enriching uranium.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said a compromise has to be achieved during future negotiations.

"We won't suspend [uranium enrichment]. Everything has to come out of negotiations. Suspension is not on our agenda," Asefi told a press conference yesterday.

The UN Security Council passed a resolution last month calling for Iran to suspend uranium enrichment by Aug. 31 or face the threat of economic and diplomatic sanctions.

Tehan has rejected as "illegal" the resolution, saying that it had not violated any of its obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty.

However, Asefi confirmed that Iran would offer its formal response tomorrow to a package of Western incentives offered in June that calls on the Islamic Republic to suspend, not permanently halt, the enrichment program.

"It will be a multifaceted response," he said.

The package offers a series of incentives to Iran including promises that the US and Europe will provide civilian nuclear technology and that Washington will join direct talks with Iran. Iran has said the package was an "acceptable basis" for a compromise.

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