By Safa Haeri

PARIS 6 Jun. (IPS) As a Russian general disclosed that the Islamic Republic is in possession of the nuclear bomb, Turkey also joined Israel, the United States and some other nation in expression "serious concern" about new Iranian test-firing of the medium-range Shahab-3 missile.

Iran does have nuclear weapons", General Yuri Baluyevsky, the Russian Deputy Chief of Staff told journalists, adding: "Of course, these are non-strategic nuclear weapons. I mean these are not ICBMs with a range of more than 5,500 kilometers and more. But as a military man, I see no danger of aggression against Russia by Iran. As for the danger of Iran's attack on the United States, the danger is zero", he said, not mentionning the dangers the missile presents for Middle Eastern nations, particularly Israel, that Iranian ruling clerics wanted to wipe out from the region.

According to the well-informed "WorldTribune" website, the Russian generalís disclosure of Iran possessing nuke weapon was missed by journalists present at a briefing he gave two weeks ago during the Bush-Putin Summit in Moscow.

At the Summit, Russian President denied U.S. charges that Russian help to Iran to build a nuclear power reactor at Bushehr would help Iran secure weapons of mass destruction.

However, this was the first time that a Russian general says on the record that Iran has atomic bomb, which he categorises as "non-strategic".

But the "WorlTribune" observed that journalists at the briefing completely missed the importance of general Baluyevsky's assertion. "The Russian deputy chief of staff has just said on the record that Iran has nuclear weapons", highlighted WorldTribune.

General Baluyevsky also did not said where from the Iranian ayatollahs got the weapon, since the nuclear power station that is under construction in the Iranian port of Bushehr on the Persian Gulf with Russian assistance is not completed.

Washington and Tel-Aviv routinely accuses Russia with supplying Iran with nuclear and missile technologies know-how, but both Moscow and Tehran reject the charges, insisting that the Bushehr power station is of civilian nature and is being constructed under the constant and regular supervision of experts from the Vienna-based International Agency for Atomic Energy (IAAE).

While President George W. Bush has labeled Iran as an "evil state" and the US State Department has placed the Mullahrchy on the top of its list of regime that are the main supporter of terrorism, Tel-Aviv, for its part, say it considers the Iranian program for developing the Shahab-3 missile and continuing its efforts to acquire weapons of mass destruction as a serious menace to its existence and reiterates that it would do whaever it could for preventing the ayatollahs to get the nuclear weapons and the means to transport them. 

Like President Vladimir Putin, General Baluyevsky asserted that Iran and Russia have broad and concrete economic co-operation, which, he said, are "consistent" with the requirements applied to the non-proliferation of missile technologies and weapons of mass destruction. "This co-operation will continue", he assured.

Iran and Russia also signed a 3 to 7 billions US Dollars agreement for purchasing Russian-made warfare to modernise the Iranian ageing arsenal, made of very old American and British planes and tanks plus a certain amount of Russian-made weapons, including three Kilo-class diesel-powered submarines, Mig-29 fighters and Sukhoy bombers.

Meanwhile in Ankara, Turkish Foreign Affairs Ministry said it has expressed its concern to Iran over the test firing of Shahab-3 missiles, thus joining Israel and the United States, both its allies.

"It is being stated that the recent testing of the Shahab-3 missiles were related with the increase of its 1300 km-long-range, as well as its capability to destruct. Our sensitivity has been brought to the attention of the Iranian side. Efforts to increase the range of the missiles as well as the expansion of them, will not serve for the global security and stability", Turkish Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Huseyn Dirioz said Wednesday.

Ankara showed similar reactions by such public statements twice before, said the English-language Turkish Daily News, adding that the first reaction was shown on July 19, 2000 and the second was made on July 1, 2001 by Foreign Affairs Ministry.

The Shahab-3 program is based on the North Korean old version of No-Dong missiles, itself a derivative of Chinese and Russian-made models, military experts say.

Meanwhile, Iran's new ambassador Firooz Daulatabadi met with the undersecretary of the Foreign Ministry Ugur Ziyal for a courtesy call. The missile issue was not raised, both Turkish and Iranian officials told the Turkish Daily News (TDN). ENDS IRAN HAS A BOMB 6602