Locked in a deepening dispute with the United States and its allies over its nuclear program, Iran said Monday that its Revolutionary Guards test-fired missiles with sufficient range to strike Israel, parts of Europe and American bases in the Persian Gulf.
“Iranian missiles are able to target any place that threatens Iran,” a senior Revolutionary Guards official, Abdollah Araqi, was quoted as saying by the semi-official Fars news agency.
The reported tests of the longer-range, liquid-fueled Shahab-3 and the solid-fueled Sejil-2 missiles were not the first by Iran.
But they came just days after President Barack Obama and the leaders of France and Britain used the disclosure of a previously secret nuclear plant in Iran to threaten Tehran with a stronger response to its efforts to enrich uranium.
Iran says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes, but many in the West say it is seeking to develop a nuclear weapon. The Obama administration is now working to assemble a package of tougher sanctions, which could include a cutoff of investments to the country’s oil and gas industry as well as restrictions on many more Iranian banks, senior administration officials said Sunday.
The first direct contact in decades between the United States and Iran is scheduled to take place Thursday at international talks in Geneva. Analysts said the launching might have been intended to give Iranian negotiators the appearance of a stronger hand at the talks.
A spokesman for the Iranian Foreign Ministry said at a news conference that the latest missile tests had been planned for some time and were not linked to the nuclear dispute, the state-run, English-language Press TV reported.
Concern about Iranian hostility toward Israel is matched by frequent speculation that Israel might launch a strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities rather than allow Tehran to develop nuclear weapons. The missile tests on Monday were part of an effort to improve Iran’s defenses, Press TV said.
Hassan Qashqavi, the Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman, said Monday that the second enrichment facility was in Fordo, a village about 115 miles south of Tehran, and 60 miles from Natanz, the site of Iran’s known enrichment plant, The Associated Press reported. That would place it, as U.S. officials have said, close to the holy city of Qum.