Iran touts strategic missile, weighs accepting Iraqi nuclear scientists

Monday, September 27, 2004

Iran has claimed the successful test of an unidentified strategic missile believed to be the Shihab-3.

The missile test was reported as Iran mulled a reported Syrian offer to provide safe haven for Iraqi nuclear scientists.

Iranian Defense Minister Ali Shamkhani said the missile was fired during the Ashura-5 exercise in mid-September, Middle East Newsline reported. He said that as a result of the success the missile has been introduced into military service.

"This strategic missile was successfully test-fired during military exercises by the Revolutionary Guards and delivered to the armed forces," Shamkhani said in a report on Iranian television on Saturday.

Ashura-5 took place between Sept. 12 and Sept. 18 and marked the latest in a series of exercises in western Iran to bolster deterrence against a Western attack on Iran's nuclear facilities. Earlier, Iranian officials said the Shihab-2 medium-range missile was launched during Ashura.

In August, Iran reported the successful test of an enhanced Shihab-3 missile. Iran has claimed that the Shihab-3, with enhanced guidance capabilities, has a range of 1,700 kilometers. Western intelligence agencies said the Shihab-3 achieved a range of 1,380 kilometers during a launch in mid-2003.

The London-based Sunday Telegraph reported that in July Syrian President Bashar Assad urged Teheran to accept 12 nuclear scientists who had fled to Damascus during the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

The Telegraph said the Iraqi scientists arrived in Syria with computer files on Saddam Hussein's nuclear program and over the last year conducted nuclear research for Syria. The newspaper said the scientists were given Syrian citizenship and new identities.

Assad's offer stipulated that the Iraqi scientists help Iran in its nuclear weapons program. The Telegraph said Assad, under U.S. pressure to dismantle Syrian weapons of mass destruction facilities, has asked that Teheran relay any assistance provided by the Iraqi scientists.

Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

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