Iran fires radar-beating missile during naval drill

Move follows delay in long-range missile test; Tehran announces production, test of domestically-made nuclear fuel rods.

January 1, 2012 16:59
3 minute read.
Iranian warship launches a missile

Iranian warship launches a missile 311 (R). (photo credit: REUTERS/IRIB via Reuters TV)

TEHRAN - Iran test-fired a new medium-range missile, designed to evade radars, on Sunday during the last days of its naval drill in the Gulf, the official IRNA news agency quoted a military official as saying.

The 10-day naval exercise coincided with increased tension in Iran's nuclear row with Western powers. Iranian state television reported Sunday that it successfully produced and tested fuel rods for its nuclear power plants.

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"The mid-range surface to air missile which is equipped with the latest sophisticated anti-radar technologies has been successfully test-fired," Deputy Navy Commander Mahmoud Mousavi told IRNA.

Iran delayed testing its long-range missiles during the drill, saying the weapons would be launched in the next few days.

Tehran has long-range missile systems including the Shahab-3, which could reach Israel and US bases in the Middle East.

In the past week Iran has threatened to stop ships moving through the strategic Strait of Hormuz if sanctions are imposed on its oil exports.

The threat has heightened tension between Iran and the West. The US Fifth Fleet said it will not allow any disruption of traffic in the vital oil shipping route.

Successful production, testing of nuclear fuel rods

Earlier Sunday, Iran announced it has successfully produced and tested fuel rods for use in its nuclear power plants, state television reported, in a snub to international demands that it halt sensitive nuclear work.

The rods, which contain natural uranium, were made in Iran and have been inserted into the core of Tehran's research nuclear reactor, state television reported.

Nuclear fuel rods contain small pellets of fuel, usually low-enriched uranium, patterned to give out heat produced by nuclear reaction without melting down.

"This great achievement will perplex the West, because the Western countries had counted on a possible failure of Iran to produce nuclear fuel plates," the Tehran Times newspaper said.

The development was announced at a time of growing tension between Western powers and Iran after the UN nuclear agency reported in November that Tehran appeared to have worked on designing a nuclear weapon. Secret research to that end may be continuing, it said.

The United States and its European allies have increased the sanctions pressure on Iran, one of the world's largest oil producers, to push Tehran to halt the enrichment.

US President Barack Obama signed more sanctions against Iran into law on Saturday, shortly after Iran signaled it was ready for new talks with the West on its nuclear program and said it had delayed long-range missile tests in the Gulf.

West: Iran exaggerates nuclear developments

Western analysts say Iran sometimes exaggerates its nuclear advances to gain leverage in its stand-off with the West.

In April, Iran's Atomic Energy Organization announced that the installation of the machinery needed for producing nuclear fuel plates had started. The nuclear plant for converting enriched nuclear fuel into fuel rods was inaugurated in 2009.

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"Currently, the rod is also undergoing rays at Tehran's Research Reactor to examine its long-term performance, Iran's English language Press TV reported.

Iran says only a few countries are capable of making both the fuel "plates," used in the Tehran reactor, and nuclear fuel rods, which are used in power stations.

Enriched uranium can be used to fuel power plants and other types of reactors, which is Iran's stated aim, or to provide material for atomic bombs if processed much further, which the West suspects is the country's ultimate intention.

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