AFP: Iran test-fired more weaponry on Thursday as it continued war games, ignoring global concern over its launch of a broadside of missiles amid efforts to end the crisis over its nuclear programme.
TEHRAN (AFP) — Iran test-fired more weaponry on Thursday as it continued war games, ignoring global concern over its launch of a broadside of missiles amid efforts to end the crisis over its nuclear programme.
The weapons fired in the Gulf by the naval section of the Revolutionary Guards included shore-to-sea, surface-to-surface and sea-to-air missiles, state television said. No details were given on the names of the missiles.
It said the war games also included firing the Hoot (Whale) torpedo that Iran unveiled in April 2006 and which it says is a super-fast weapon capable of hitting enemy submarines.
Iran on Wednesday test-fired its Shahab-3 long-range missile, which the Islamic republic says can reach Israel and US bases in the Gulf, and eight other more medium-range missiles.
The move sparked major concern in Western governments which say they fear Iran's nuclear drive is aimed at making atomic weapons, a charge that Tehran vehemently denies.
In a separate land exercise late on Wednesday, the military also fired "longer and medium range missiles," state television said, showing several missiles being fired into the night sky.
Footage was also broadcast of the naval manoeuvres, showing divers fixing mines to a pier, missiles being fired from shore-based mobile launchers and the Hoot speeding towards a target.
Washington and its regional ally Israel have never ruled out military action against Iranian atomic facilities, while Tehran has warned of a fierce response if it is attacked.
"Iran rejects the international demand to halt the enrichment of uranium and the world must respond accordingly — by increasing and intensifying the sanctions against Iran," Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said on Thursday.
Defence Minister Ehud Barak told Israeli public radio Iran represented a challenge for the whole world.
"Israel is the strongest country in the region and we have already shown in the past that we are not afraid of acting when our vital interests are threatened," he added.
After an aide to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned that Iran would "set fire" to Israel and US ships in the Gulf if attacked, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice warned that the United States would defend itself.
"We will defend American interests and the interests of our allies. We take very strongly our obligation to defend our allies and we intend to do that," she told reporters in Tbilisi.
The White House avoided confirming that Iran staged a second series of missile tests on Thursday.
"I don't have our own US government verification that there were any additional tests, but they did test the day before," said Tony Fratto, a White House spokesman.
A senior US defence official said Iran appears to have fired only a single missile on Thursday, not a second round of missiles as suggested by Iranian media reports.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, the official told AFP the United States had detected the launch of seven missiles on Wednesday, including a Shahab-3.
"There appears to have been one missile fired today (Thursday), but that may well have been one that failed the day before, and they finally got operational and launched today," the official said.
There has been concern an attack against Iran could be imminent after it emerged that Israel had staged manoeuvres in Greece that were effectively dry runs for a potential strike against Iranian nuclear facilities.
The latest war games come amid increased diplomatic efforts to end the five-year standoff over the Iranian nuclear drive.
Tehran's response to a deal by world powers, in which it would be offered technological and economic incentives if it suspended uranium enrichment, is currently being analysed by diplomats.
Meanwhile the chief of French energy giant Total said it was too politically risky to invest in Iran at present, as Western governments lean on firms to cut ties with the Islamic republic.
Christophe de Margerie's remarks to the Financial Times appear to spell the end of Total's involvement in a deal to exploit Phase 11 of Iran's giant South Pars gas field to produce liquefied natural gas for export and to build a liquefaction plant.
In response Iranian Oil Minister Gholam Hossein Nozari said: "We have announced that whoever is interested, they are welcome to come forward. If they are not interested, we do not insist either."