DUBAI, May 25 (Reuters) – Iran successfully test-launched a ballistic missile with a potential 2,000-km range on Thursday, state media said, two days after the chief of Israel’s armed forces raised the prospect of “action” against Tehran over its nuclear programme.
Iran, which has one of the biggest missile programmes in the Middle East, says its weapons are capable of reaching the bases of arch-foes Israel and the United States in the region.
Despite U.S. and European opposition, the Islamic Republic has said it will further develop its “defensive” missile programme.
“Our message to Iran‘s enemies is that we will defend the country and its achievements. Our message to our friends is that we want to help regional stability,” Iranian Defence Minister Mohammadreza Ashtiani said.
State TV broadcast a few seconds of footage of what it said was the launch of an upgraded version of Iran‘s Khoramshahr 4 ballistic missile with a range of 2,000 km (1,243 miles) and able to carry a 1,500-kg (3,300-pound) warhead.
The state news agency IRNA said the liquid-fuel missile had been named the “Kheibar”, a reference to a Jewish castle overrun by Muslim warriors in the early days of Islam.
“The domestically built Kheibar missile’s outstanding features include quick preparation and launch time, which makes it a tactical weapon in addition to a strategic one,” it said.
U.S. State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said, “Iran‘s development and proliferation of ballistic missiles poses a serious threat to regional and international security and remains a significant non-proliferation challenge.”
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Iran was continuing to seek missile technology from foreign suppliers and conducting tests in defiance of a UN Security Council resolution, Miller told reporters at a regular press briefing, adding that Washington would continue to use tools including sanctions to counter those efforts.
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Israel, which the Islamic Republic does not recognise, sees Iran as an existential threat. Iran says its ballistic missiles are an important deterrent and retaliatory force against the United States, Israel and other potential regional adversaries.
An Israeli military spokesperson said the military does not comment on such matters.
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On Tuesday, the top Israeli general mooted possible military action against Iran as efforts by six world powers to revive Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal have stalled since last September, amid growing Western fears about Tehran’s accelerating nuclear advances.
The deal, which Washington ditched in 2018 under then President Donald Trump, had imposed curbs on Iran‘s nuclear activities that extended the time Tehran would need to produce enough fissile material for a nuclear bomb, if it chose to do so. Iran denies seeking nuclear weapons.
(Reporting by Elwely Elwelly; additional reporting by Henriette Chacar in Jerusalem and Simon Lewis in Washington; writing by Parisa Hafezi; editing by Gerry Doyle, Mark Heinrich and Hugh Lawson)