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AJE - Iran to test-fire long range missiles in Gulf

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    AJE - Aljazeera - Saturday, 31 December 2011 Iran to test-fire long range missiles in Gulf Straits of Hormuz naval drill continues as European Union says open
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 31, 2011
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      AJE - Aljazeera -
      Saturday, 31 December 2011

      Iran to test-fire long range missiles in Gulf

      Straits of Hormuz naval drill continues as European Union says open to
      talks over Iran's nuclear ambitions.
      Last Modified: 31 Dec 2011 13:31

      http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2011/12/201112316370111504.html


      Iran plans to test-fire long range missiles during a naval exercise in
      the Gulf, following a threat by Tehran to close shipping lanes if the
      West imposes sanctions on its oil exports.

      Mahmoud Mousavi, Iran's senior navy commander, told English-language
      Press TV, "All kinds of surface-to-sea, sea-to-sea and surface-to-air,
      as well as shoulder-launched missiles, will be tested in the coming days".

      The semi-official Fars news agency, Press TV and the state-run IRNA news
      agency reported earlier on Saturday that Iran had already test-fired
      long-range and other missiles.

      The 10-day naval drill, which began last Saturday, coincided with
      increased tension in Iran's nuclear row with Western
      powers, after the EU said it was considering a ban - already in place in
      the US - on importing oil from Iran.

      Tehran says the drill is aimed at showing Iran's resolve to counter any
      attack by enemies such as Israel or the US, which have not ruled out a
      military option if diplomacy fails to resolve the nuclear dispute with Iran.

      Tehran threatened on Tuesday to stop the flow of oil through the Strait
      of Hormuz in the Gulf if it became the target of an oil embargo over its
      nuclear ambitions, a move that could trigger military conflict with
      countries dependent on Gulf oil.

      Iran's oil minister said crude prices will rise to more than $200 per
      barrel if foreign sanctions are imposed on the country's oil exports
      over its disputed nuclear work, the Aseman weekly reported on Saturday.

      "Undoubtedly the price of crude will increase dramatically if sanctions
      are imposed on our oil ... It will reach at least over $200 per barrel,"
      Rostam Qasemi said.

      Missile capabilities

      Iranian media have said the naval exercise differed from previous ones
      in terms of "the vastness of the area of action and the military
      equipment and tactics that are being employed".

      During military drills in 2009, Iran test-fired its surface-to-surface
      Shahab-3 missile, said to be capable of reaching Israel and US bases in
      the Middle East.

      Washington has expressed concern about Tehran's missile progamme:
      including the Shahab-3, a strategic intermediate range ballistic missile
      with a range of up to 1,000km; the Ghadr-1 with an estimated 1,600km
      range; and a Shahab-3 variant known as Sajjil-2 with a range of up to
      2,400km.

      Meanwhile, Ambassador Ali Reza Sheikh Attar says Iran's top nuclear
      negotiator, Saeed Jalili, is to send a letter soon to EU foreign policy
      chief Catherine Ashton to arrange a new round of negotiations.

      Attar didn't say when the letter would be sent. His comments were
      reported by the semi-official Mehr news agency on Saturday.

      The EU responded, saying it is open to meaningful talks with Tehran
      provided there are no preconditions on the Iranian side, an EU foreign
      policy spokesman said on Saturday.

      EU foreign policy spokesman, Michael Mann, said in an email to Reuters
      that Catherine Ashton wrote to Jalili in October and had not yet had a
      response.

      "We continue to pursue our twin-track approach and are open for
      meaningful discussions on confidence-building measures, without
      preconditions from the Iranian side," he said.

      Mahjoob Zweiri, a professor at Qatar University, said that the EU would
      take at least ten days to respond to Iran's overtures.

      He also said that "while keeping the diplomatic track open", Iran has
      historically "tried to show Western powers the preparations for any type
      of attack".

      The last round of negotiations between Iran and the six powers - the US,
      Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany - in January in Istanbul,
      Turkey, ended in failure.

      Tensions with the West have risen since the UN nuclear watchdog reported
      on November 8 that Iran appears to have worked on designing an atomic
      bomb and may still be pursuing research to that end.

      Iran denies this and says it needs nuclear technology to generate
      electricity to meet growing domestic demand.

      Source: Al Jazeera and agencies
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