- TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran,
under pressure to dispel fears it is developing nuclear arms, Monday paraded
six of its newly deployed medium-range missiles, which military analysts
say could reach Israel or U.S. bases in the Gulf.
- It was the largest number of Shahab-3 ballistic missiles
put on public display since Iran announced in July it had finished testing
the weapon and deployed it to the Revolutionary Guards.
- The sand-colored Shahab-3 ballistic missiles, towed along
to the accompaniment of rousing military music, were the climax of a lengthy
parade to commemorate the start of the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war.
- Iran's reformist President Mohammad Khatami said the
show of strength should not be read as saber-rattling.
- "The Islamic Republic of Iran's policy is based
on detente," he said at the parade led by disabled war veterans.
- "We are opposed to the proliferation of weapons
of mass destruction and nuclear weapons but we insist on our absolute right
to be powerful in the scientific and technological arena."
- Uzi Rubin, former director of Israel's Arrow anti-ballistic
missile system program, said Iran's Shahab-3 was a clear threat to the
- "The (Shahab's) increased range covers the whole
of Israel, north to south, from deployment areas deep within Iran, and
thus increases concern as to what would happen if such missiles were armed
with WMD warheads," he told Reuters.
- Television pictures showed one of the missile carriers
displayed a defiant message in bold letters on a giant yellow banner facing
Khatami. "We will stamp on America," it read.
- NO NUCLEAR ARMS PROGRAM
- Iran insists its nuclear scientists are not working on
a weapons program but trying to meet soaring electricity demand.
- U.N. nuclear watchdog International Atomic Energy Agency
(IAEA) declined to comment on the missiles. The IAEA Governing Board has
given Iran until the end of October to dispel doubts that its stated policy
of developing nuclear energy was not a cover for building atomic arms.
- Hard-liners in Iran say Tehran should follow North Korea's
example and pull out of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty rather than
cave in to international pressure.
- But Mohsen Aminzadeh, deputy foreign minister for Asia-Pacific
affairs and seen as a close aide to the reform-minded Khatami, said Iran
must regain international trust by signing the NPT Additional Protocol
for snap inspections of nuclear sites.
- "America accuses us of having a clandestine nuclear
program. We deny it but that is not enough to neutralize America's plots
against us," he said.
- "If there is no other way to change the negative
atmosphere created by America against Iran but accepting the Additional
Protocol, then accepting the protocol is beneficial for us," he told
the official IRNA news agency.
- Based on the North Korean Nodong-1 and modified with
Russian technology, the Shahab-3 is thought to have a range of 810 miles.
- Iran says it is intended to serve purely as a deterrent
and has not declared how many Shahab-3 it has been able to manufacture.
Military analysts say questions remain about its reliability and accuracy.
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