Belfast Telegraph

Friday 24 October 2014

Iran's navy test-fires missile

Footage apparently showing an Iranian navy vessel launching a missile during a drill (AP/ISNA)

Iran's navy has test-fired a medium-range surface-to-air missile during a drill in international waters near the strategic Strait of Hormuz - the passageway for one-sixth of the world's oil supplies.

State TV said the missile, named Mehrab or Altar, has been designed to evade radars and was developed by Iranian scientists. The report did not provide details or say when the missile was tested.

A spokesman for the exercise, Rear Admiral Mahmoud Mousavi, said the missile is one of the newest in the navy's arsenal. "It's equipped with state-of-the-art technology and a built-in system that enables it to thwart jammers," Rear Admiral Mousavi said

The exercise covers a 1,250-mile stretch of water beyond the Strait of Hormuz, including parts of the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden.

The drill, which could bring Iranian ships into proximity with US Navy vessels that operate in the same area, is Iran's latest show of strength in the face of mounting international criticism over its controversial nuclear programme.

The West fears Iran's programme aims to develop atomic weapons - a charge Tehran denies, insisting it is for peaceful purposes only.

The 10-day exercise drew significant attention after Iranian officials warned they may close the Strait of Hormuz, cutting off oil exports, if the West imposes sanctions on Iran's oil shipments.

But Iranian military officials later backed off from the threat, saying Tehran can easily close the strategic oil route at the mouth of the Persian Gulf but has no intention of doing so at this point. Rear Admiral Mousavi made a similar reconciliatory comment. "We won't disrupt traffic through the Strait of Hormuz. We are not after this," the semi-official ISNA news agency quoted him as saying.

Prominent politician Ismail Kowsari offered a different view, saying the war games are part of Iran's preparations to close the vital waterway if sanctions are imposed.

"Iran's armed forces have practised operations to close the Strait of Hormuz several times," the semi-official Fars news agency quoted Mr Kowsari as saying. "If we feel that the enemies want to prevent our oil exports, definitely we will close the Strait of Hormuz," he said.

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