UK paper: Iran building 6,000-km range missile

Times says images taken after launch of "research rocket" reveal alleged missile-building facility.

iran missiles 224.88 (photo credit: Courtesy <i>Times</i>)
iran missiles 224.88
(photo credit: Courtesy <i>Times</i>)
New satellite imagery exposed a site where Iran was developing long-range ballistic missiles, the Times of London reported Friday. According to the report, on February 4, Iran announced it had launched a "research rocket" as part of its space program. Experts have estimated since then, however, that the rocket launch was in fact a field test of Shihab-type ballistic missile. But four days after the launch, another intriguing feature of the test became apparent: analysis of photographs taken by the Digital Globe QuickBird satellite indicated that the launch site of Kavoshgar 1, as the Shihab missile was dubbed by the Iranians, is also the site where Iran is busy developing ballistic missiles with a range of about 6,000 km. The site, about 230 km southeast of Teheran, was previously unknown and its link with the Iranian weapons program was revealed by Jane's Intelligence Review after the images were studied by a former Iraq weapons inspector. Using a space program as a façade for a weapons program was the path chosen by North Korea until it declared it had passed the nuclear weapon threshold. Geoffrey Forden, a research associate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said that there was a recently constructed building on the site, about 40 meters in length, which was similar in form and size to the Taepodong long-range missile assembly facility in North Korea. Jane's Proliferation editor Avital Johanan said analysis of the Iranian site indicated that Teheran may be about five years away from developing a 6,000-km range ballistic missile. This would tie in with American intelligence estimates and underlines why US President George Bush wants the Polish and Czech components of the US missile defense system to be up and running by 2013. Missiles with a range of 6,000 km, launched from Teheran's environs, can hit not only any Middle Eastern countries, but also any target in Europe, including targets in Britain, almost any target in China and Russia, and most of India. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has announced his country has installed 6,000 centrifuges for the purpose of enriching uranium, a process which can be geared towards either a civilian or military program. He did however continually reject incentives offered by the West in exchange for Iran halting its own enrichment, including a promise that Russia and other countries supply Iran with all the nuclear fuel it needed for peaceful purposes; Iran continues to deny it is trying to develop atomic bombs. President Shimon Peres had posited several times in the last few months that there was "no logic" in Iran working diligently towards producing long-range ballistic missiles unless it planned to couple such missiles with nuclear warheads.