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Iran's Missiles Can Now Hit Europe, Ex-Official Says

Wednesday, October 6, 2004; Page A21

TEHRAN, Oct. 5 -- Iran has increased the range of its missiles to 1,250 miles, a senior Iranian official was quoted as saying on Tuesday, putting parts of Europe within reach for the first time.

Military analysts had estimated Iran's missile range at 810 miles, which would allow it to strike anywhere in Israel. But Iran's official Islamic Republic News Agency quoted Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the country's influential former president and the head of a government oversight body, as saying: "Now we have the power to launch a missile with a 2,000-kilometer range. Iran is determined to improve its military capabilities."

Iran's former president, Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, says Iran's missile range has increased to 1,250 miles. (Raheb Homavandi -- Reuters)

"If the Americans attack Iran, the world will change. . . . They will not dare to make such a mistake," Rafsanjani was quoted as saying in a speech at a national security exhibition.

The United States, which has accused Iran of secretly developing nuclear weapons, expressed "serious concerns about Iran's missile programs."

"We view Iran's efforts to further develop its missile capabilities as a threat to the region and to the United States interests, and all the more so in light of its ongoing nuclear program," a State Department spokesman, J. Adam Ereli, said in Washington.

Ereli declined to say whether the United States believed Rafsanjani's claim, saying he could not discuss intelligence matters.

Iran insists its nuclear program is aimed at generating electricity. It says its missiles are for defensive purposes and would be used to counter a possible Israeli or U.S. strike against its nuclear facilities.

In recent months, Iranian officials have frequently trumpeted their ability to strike back at any aggressor, and in August they announced they had successfully tested an upgraded version of the medium-range Shahab-3 missile. Analysts say the unmodified Shahab-3 had a range of 810 miles.

Israel has long accused Iran of working on a long-range missile, the Shahab-4, which would be able to reach Europe. Iran denies plans to build a Shahab-4 missile.

While Iran has had Israel in missile range for some time, Israeli officials said the range described by Rafsanjani was more significant for Europe than for Israel.

"We are well prepared to defend the state of Israel. . . . The Iranians will have to think twice before using these kinds of weapons," a senior Israeli official said.

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