Iran Nuclear NewsIran fires practice missiles and affirms nuclear stance

Iran fires practice missiles and affirms nuclear stance

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New York Times: As Iran fired 10 short-range missiles on the second day of a large-scale military maneuver, officials on Sunday reiterated Iran’s stance that it did not intend to halt its uranium enrichment program. The New York Times

By NAZILA FATHI

TEHRAN, Aug. 20 — As Iran fired 10 short-range missiles on the second day of a large-scale military maneuver, officials on Sunday reiterated Iran’s stance that it did not intend to halt its uranium enrichment program.

The statement comes two days before Iran’s self-imposed deadline of Aug. 22 for responding to a package of incentives offered by six Western nations in return for halting the program. The United Nations Security Council has set a deadline of Aug. 31 for Ian to suspend the program or face the possibility of economic sanctions. Statements by officials so far suggest that Iran will neither agree to the incentives deal nor yield to the Security Council.

A Foreign Ministry spokesman, Hamidreza Assefi, said during a weekly news conference on Sunday that Iran would not suspend the program.

“The issue of suspension means returning to the past,” he said. “Suspension is not on our agenda.’’

The missiles fired on Sunday, called Saegheh — thunder in Persian — had ranges of 50 and 150 miles, the official ISNA news agency reported. In April, Iran unveiled new weaponry, including radar-evading missiles and high-speed torpedoes.

The war games started in the southern province of Sistan-Baluchestan on Saturday and are expected to continue along the eastern and western borders of the country in 14 provinces. The games are named after Zolfaghar, the sword of Ali, the son-in-law of the Prophet Muhammad. Ali is revered by Shiites as Muhammad’s successor.

State television showed helicopters shooting, bombs being dropped in the desert and paratroopers jumping out of helicopters. The report said various types of helicopters, fighter planes, live ammunition and bombs were used.

“This operation was planned in response to the evil intentions of the enemy,” Maj. Gen. Ataollah Salehi said on state television on Saturday.

Brig. Gen. Muhammad Hassan Dadress told the semiofficial FARS news agency that Iran was not displaying “the major part of its military capability.”

“The army of the Islamic Republic has developed its equipment in the shortest period of time according to the most modern techniques and equipment of the enemy so that it can confront any threat,” he said.

The military maneuver came during increasing international pressure over Iran’s nuclear program. Uranium enrichment is a process that can lead to making fuel for nuclear reactors or, if the uranium is enriched to high enough levels, nuclear bombs.

Iran contends that its nuclear program is for peaceful energy purposes. The United States and Europe contend that Iran is seeking to develop nuclear weapons.

Iran has said it will give its official response on Tuesday to a package of proposals by Germany and the five permanent members of the Security Council — China, Britain, Russia, the United States and France. The package includes economic incentives and a promise to help develop Iran’s nuclear program in return for Iran’s freezing its enrichment program.

Iran has come under increasing international pressure since the war in Lebanon broke out. The United States and Israel have accused Iran of financing and arming Hezbollah.

The daily newspaper Shargh on Saturday quoted a Turkish newspaper report that Turkey had forced two Iranian aircraft on their way to Syria to land in Turkey after Israel said the two aircraft were carrying weapons for Hezbollah. It said no weapons were found on the planes.

Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a senior cleric who is in charge of the powerful Expediency Council, warned the United States in a sermon during Friday Prayer not to initiate a war on Iran over its nuclear program.

“We hope America has learned a lesson from the war in Lebanon and refrains from getting involved in another conflict and causing insecurity in our region,” he said in remarks broadcast live on radio. “The problem should be resolved by wise people through negotiations so that we can end this regional and international issue in a good way.’’

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