Iran says it test-fired short-range missiles
Published Sunday, September 27, 2009 8:43PM EDT
Iran says it successfully tested short-range missiles during military drills on Sunday, days after the international community condemned the Iranian government for secretly building an underground nuclear facility.
The head of the Revolutionary Guard Air Force, Gen. Hossein Salami, also announced the successful test of a multiple missile launcher.
Pictures broadcast on the official English-language Press TV showed at least two missiles being launched at the same time. Male voices could be heard shouting "Allahu Akbar" in the background.
"The message of the war game for some arrogant countries which intend to intimidate is that we are able to give a proper, strong answer to their hostility quickly," state television quoted Salami as saying. According to Salami, the missiles successfully hit their targets.
On Friday, the United States, France and Britain released evidence at the G-20 meeting in Pittsburgh that Iran has been building a second, secret uranium enrichment facility.
The news sparked international condemnation. U.S. President Barack Obama used his weekly Internet and radio address Saturday to offer Iran "serious, meaningful dialogue," while warning that it will face greater isolation from the international community if the country fails to co-operate on nuclear non-proliferation.
"Iran's leaders must now choose," Obama said. "They can live up to their responsibilities and achieve integration with the community of nations, or they will face increased pressure and isolation and deny opportunity to their own people."
In a speech later Saturday at the United Nations, Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon condemned Iran for its "continued refusal" to listen to resolutions by the UN Security Council and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
On Sunday, Liberal foreign affairs critic Bob Rae called for international sanctions against Iran, followed by inspections of its nuclear facilities, to deal with what he called a "very serious" issue.
"Iran is just about the last country in the world you'd want to have a nuclear weapon or a nuclear weapons program," Rae told CTV's Question Period. "And there doesn't seem to be very much doubt that, given all that we now know, that is certainly their intention or plan. How far along they actually are, how far away from the actual production of a nuclear bomb, is going to be a matter of a lot of speculation."
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Iran will likely be unable to convince the international community that its nuclear program has peaceful aims, which could lead to sanctions.
The Iranians must "present convincing evidence as to the purpose of their nuclear program. We don't believe that they can present convincing evidence that it's only for peaceful purposes, but we are going to put them to the test," Clinton told CBS' Face the Nation.
Iran agreed Saturday to allow UN nuclear inspectors to examine the new facility, which resides in the mountains near the holy city of Qom. A high-ranking official in the Iranian government told state television that the new facility will be operational "soon."
News of the secret facility comes days ahead of a key meeting in Geneva between Iran and six major world powers designed to curb its nuclear weapons program. The negotiations are scheduled to take place on Thursday.
The U.S. estimates that Iran is between one and five years from nuclear weapons capability. Iran is also believed to be working on long-range missile capabilities to carry such a warhead.
In the meantime, testing of the short- and medium-range missiles will continue into Monday.
Iran was expected to test medium-range Shahab-1 and Shahab-2 missiles on Sunday night, and long-range Shahab-3 missiles on Monday.
Fateh, Tondar and Zelzal missiles were the short-range, surface-to-surface missiles tested earlier Sunday.
Salami told media gathered for the tests that Iran had increased the missiles' speed and precision.
Iran's last conducted missile tests in May, when it fired a surface-to-surface missile known as the Sajjil-2, which has a range of about 1,900 kilometres.
"I think Iran is saying to the west in particular that it doesn't feel in a corner," Michael Singh, of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a think tank that studies American interests in the Middle East said about the tests.
"(Iran is saying) that it is comfortable with the rhetoric of confrontation and that it's not simply going to back down in the face of the tough tone that's been adopted."
He says that when the U.S., U.K., France, Germany, Russia and China meet on Oct. 1, they need to think about important questions.
The first is whether Iran can be "trusted."
"Is any agreement in Iran worth the paper its written on at this point giving that they were deceiving the IAEA and the UN?"
The second question is whether the international community does have the leverage to convince Iran to make any concessions n its nuclear program.
"I think if Iran doesn't view that the military option is on the table with the United States or Israel, it's going to be very difficult to get Iran to make any kind of shift in its nuclear program."
With files from The Associated Press