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