Iran said yesterday it has the shoulder-fired Stinger missile and may mass-produce copies, but the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations said he doubted the Iranians have the sophisticated antiaircraft weapon.
"If they had them, they would have used them against the Iraqis," Ambassador Vernon Walters said on NBC's "Meet the Press."
But Iran's state news agency, monitored in Nicosia, Cyprus, quoted Iranian Prime Minister Mir Hossein Musavi as saying Tehran has begun "serious studies" aimed at manufacturing copies of U.S.-made Stingers.
Musavi's remarks came a day after the news agency quoted Revolutionary Guards commander Mohsen Rezai as saying, "Iran's Moslem combatants have obtained and successfully copied" the Stinger. A Tehran newspaper quoted Rezai as saying Iran has "a large number" of the missiles, and had "imported" them.
On Friday, Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger said he believed Iran possessed the Stinger after parts used with the missiles were found in the debris of Iranian boats attacked by U.S. helicopters Thursday.
Contradicting a report in Saturday editions of The Washington Post, Iran's ambassador to the United Nations, Said Rajai Khorassani, who appeared with Walters on "Meet the Press," said Iran did not necessarily purchase the missiles from Afghan rebels, who received them from the CIA.
"I don't believe that. There are other ways of getting them," he said. "We could have gotten them from certain American middlemen."