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Iran test-fires new version of its most advanced missile

By Ali Akbar Dareini
Thursday, December 17, 2009; A15

TEHRAN -- Iran on Wednesday test-fired an upgraded version of its most advanced missile, which is capable of hitting Israel and parts of Europe, in a new show of strength aimed at preventing any military strike against it amid the nuclear standoff with the West.

The test stoked tensions between Iran and the West, which is pressing Tehran to rein in its nuclear program. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said it showed the need for tougher U.N. sanctions on Iran.

"This is a matter of serious concern to the international community, and it does make the case for us moving further on sanctions. We will treat this with the seriousness it deserves," Brown said after talks with U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in Copenhagen.

In Washington, Defense Department press secretary Geoff Morrell called the launch provocative but said the technology is not "particularly different than anything we've seen in the past."

"Obviously, it is another example of provocative actions on the part of the Iranian government that do nothing to instill any degree of confidence in its neighbors that it has peaceful intentions," he said.

Wednesday's test was for the latest version of Iran's longest-range missile, the Sajjil-2, which has a range of about 1,200 miles. That places Israel, Iran's sworn enemy, well within reach, along with U.S. bases in the Persian Gulf region and parts of southeastern Europe.

Iran has repeatedly warned that it will retaliate if Israel or the United States carries out military strikes against its nuclear facilities, at a time when Washington and its allies accuse Tehran of seeking to develop a nuclear weapon. Iran denies the allegation, saying its nuclear program is intended solely to generate electricity.

Nuclear negotiations have been deadlocked for months, with Iran equivocating over a U.N.-drafted deal aimed at removing most of the low-enriched uranium from the country so it would not have enough in its stockpiles to produce a bomb. The U.N. nuclear watchdog last month sharply rebuked Iran for refusing to halt uranium enrichment.

Iranian state television broke the news of the test in a one-sentence report accompanied by a brief video showing the missile rising from its launchpad in a cloud of smoke.

Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi vowed that the Sajjil-2 would be a "strong deterrent" against any foreign attack.

Iran has intensified its missile-development program in recent years, and the effort is a source of serious concern in Israel, the United States and among Western allies.

-- Associated Press

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