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Dublin: 22 °C Wednesday 23 July, 2014

Iran tests surface-to-air missile

The country says it performed the test today – amid reports it is a drill for closing waterway should the West block Iran’s oil sales.

Iranian navy boats attend a drill in the sea of Oman on Friday.
Iranian navy boats attend a drill in the sea of Oman on Friday.
Image: AP Photo/IIPA, Ali Mohammadi

IRAN’S NAVY HAS said that it test-fired an advanced 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 supply.

The country’s state TV station said the missile, named Mehrab, or Altar, is designed to evade radar and was developed by Iranian scientists. The report said the missile was tested today but provided no further details.

A leading Iranian lawmaker said the sea manoeuvres serve as practice for closing the Strait of Hormuz if the West blocks Iran’s oil sales. After top Iranian officials made the same threat a week ago, military commanders emphasised that Iran has no intention of blocking the waterway now.

The exercise covers a 1,250-mile (2,000-kilometre) 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 nuclear program. The West fears Iran’s programme aims to develop atomic weapons — a charge Tehran denies, insisting it’s for peaceful purposes only.

The 10-day exercise drew significant attention after the Iranian warnings about closing the strait. Iranian military officials later appeared to back away from that threat.

A spokesman for the exercise, Rear Adm. Mahmoud Mousavi, made a similar conciliatory comment on Sunday.

“We won’t disrupt traffic through the Strait of Hormuz. We are not after this,” the semiofficial ISNA news agency quoted him as saying.

Prominent lawmaker Ismail Kowsari offered a different view. He said the war games are part of Iran’s preparations to close the vital waterway if sanctions are imposed.

“Iran’s armed forces have practiced operations to close the Strait of Hormuz several times,” the semi-official Fars news agency quoted Kowsari as saying today.

“If we feel that the enemies want to prevent our oil exports, definitely we will close the Strait of Hormuz,” he said.

Mousavi said the missile that was tested 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,” Mousavi told state TV. One way to deflect surface-to-air missiles is to confuse their guidance systems.

- Ali Akbar Dareini

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