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September 28, 2009

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Iran announces successful firing of short-range missiles

IRAN said it successfully test-fired short-range missiles during military drills yesterday by the elite Revolutionary Guard, a show of force days after the United States warned Tehran over a newly revealed underground nuclear facility it was secretly constructing.

General Hossein Salami, head of the Revolutionary Guard Air Force, said Iran also tested a multiple missile launcher for the first time.

The official English-language Press TV showed pictures of at least two missiles being fired simultaneously and said they were from yesterday's drill in a central Iran desert.

"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.

He said the missiles successfully hit their targets.

The powerful Revolutionary Guard controls Iran's missile program.

The tests came two days after the US and its allies disclosed that Iran had been secretly developing a previously unknown underground uranium enrichment facility and warned the country it must open the site to international inspection or face harsher sanctions.

The drill was planned in advance of that disclosure.

The newly revealed nuclear site in the arid mountains near the holy city of Qom is believed to be inside a heavily guarded, underground facility belonging to the Revolutionary Guard, according to a document sent by US President Barack Obama's administration to lawmakers.

Iran said on Saturday it will allow United Nations nuclear inspectors to examine the site.

By US estimates, Iran is one to five years away from having a nuclear weapons capability, although US intelligence also believes that Iranian leaders have not yet made the decision to build a weapon.

Iran also is developing a long-range ballistic missile that could carry a nuclear warhead, but the administration said last week that it believes that effort has been slowed.

That assessment paved the way for Obama's decision to shelve the Bush administration's plan for a missile shield in Europe, which was aimed at defending against Iranian ballistic missiles.

Salami said Iran would test medium-range missiles last night and long-range missiles today.

He told reporters Iran had reduced the missiles and their ranges and enhanced their speed and precision so they could be used in quick, short-range engagements.

He also said they are now able to be launched from positions that are not as easy to hit.


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