x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Iran tests nine missiles

Iranian state television says the country's elite Revolutionary Guards have test-fired nine long and medium range missiles.

TEHRAN // Iran test-fired nine missiles today and warned the United States and Israel it was ready to retaliate for any attack over its disputed nuclear projects.

Washington, which says Iran seeks atomic bombs, told Tehran to halt further tests. Iran, the world's fourth largest oil producer, says its nuclear programme is only for electricity. Iran's missile tests rattled oil markets, helping crude prices to rebound about $2 a barrel after recent falls. Speculation that Israel could bomb Iran has mounted since a big Israeli air drill last month. US leaders have not ruled out military options if diplomacy fails to end the nuclear row. The Revolutionary Guards air force commander Hossein Salami said in televised comments that thousands of missiles were ready to be fired at "pre-determined targets". Missiles were shown soaring from desert launchpads, leaving long vapour trails. "We warn the enemies who intend to threaten us with military exercises and empty psychological operations that our hand will always be on the trigger and our missiles will always be ready to launch," he said, according to ISNA news agency. The defence minister Mostafa Mohammad Najjar, cited by Fars news agency, said Iran's missile power was only defensive and was "at the service of peace, stability and security in the region". The White House told Iran to "refrain from further missile tests if they truly seek to gain the trust of the world". But the United States gave no hint to leaders of a group of eight rich nations meeting in Japan this week that it planned to attack Iran, the Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi said. The US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice suggested the tests justified plans for an anti-missile shield, which Russia firmly opposes. Iran has threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz, passage for about 40 per cent of globally traded oil, if it is attacked. The US military says it will prevent any such action. The war of words heightens risks that a misunderstanding or a minor clash in the Gulf, for instance, could get out of hand. Analysts say Iran's military technology often involves improving weaponry originating in China and North Korea. "They are some way away yet from threatening Israel or US bases," said the London-based independent analyst Paul Beaver, noting that guidance systems over longer ranges needed work. *Reuters