Tue, Aug 24, 2010 - Page 6 News List

Tehran unveils long-distance bomber drone

THE GUARDIAN , LONDON

Iran has unveiled an unmanned, long-distance bomber drone that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called “an ambassador of death” to Tehran’s enemies.

At a ceremony on Sunday, Ahmadinejad said the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) — named Karrar, meaning “striker” in Persian — had “a main message of peace and friendship,” but was intended to deter aggression “and keep the enemy paralyzed in his bases.”

The presentation came as technicians began fueling the Islamic republic’s first nuclear power station at Bushehr in a development Israel has described as “totally unacceptable.”

The US and Britain say the Bushehr plant, which is monitored by the UN’s nuclear watchdog, poses no proliferation threat because Russia is supplying the nuclear fuel and will remove the spent fuel rods, minimizing any risk that they could be used to make nuclear weapons.

Iran is under UN sanctions to force a halt to uranium enrichment due to fears that it secretly plans to build nuclear weapons. It flatly denies having any such intention.

Iranian Defense Minister Ahmed Vahidi said the Karrar had a range of up to 992km, which is not far enough to reach Israel.

Iranian state TV reported that the UAV could carry four cruise missiles, two 113kg bombs or one 226kg bomb.

The drone was the latest item of military hardware to be inaugurated by Iran against a background of continuing tension over the nuclear issue.

On Friday, Tehran test-fired a new surface-to-surface missile called the Qiam (meaning “rising”). It has already developed long-range missiles capable of hitting Israel and eastern Europe and of carrying a nuclear warhead.

Earlier this month, the Debka file Web site, which appears to have links to Israeli intelligence, reported that the father of Iran’s UAV program, Reza Baruni, had been assassinated in a bomb attack in his home town of Ahwaz, Khuzestan. There has been no confirmation of this unattributed claim from any other source.

It is widely believed that Western intelligence services, Israel and perhaps Arab countries have been seeking to sabotage the Iranian nuclear program. Experts say the program appears to have suffered setbacks.

The Iranian media have previously reported the successful test of a radar-evading “stealth” drone with bombing capabilities. In March last year, US fighter jets in Iraq shot down an unmanned Iranian spy drone, generating concern in Washington.

On Saturday, Ahmadinejad warned that any attack against Iran would be “suicidal.”

However, the threat of pre-emptive military action that could ignite war across the Middle East may be receding. Officials in US President Barack Obama’s administration were reported last week to have told Israel they believe Iran was still a year away from being able to build a nuclear weapon.

The New York Times quoted Israeli officials as saying that their assessments were coming into line with Washington’s view, but they remain suspicious that Iran has a secret uranium enrichment site yet to be discovered — after one was revealed in a mountainside near Qom last September as sanctions intensified.

Israel, an undeclared atomic power which, unlike Iran, has not signed the nuclear nonproliferation treaty, has often warned that it cannot live with a nuclear-armed Iran and hinted that it may attack it, as it did Iraq’s nuclear reactor in 1981.

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