TEHRAN, 7 Aug. (IPS) Iran revealed on Saturday 7 of August 2004 that it has a “deterrent nuclear defence” program and is improving it along its delivery vehicle based on the Shahab-3 missile system.
"We are improving the Shahab-3 and we shall report when we test it in a time that is not very far away", Defence Minister Admiral Ali Shamkhani told defence correspondents, reported by the semi-independent students news agency ISNA.
The Shahab missile, whose name means "shooting star" in Farsi, or meteor, is thought to be capable of carrying a 1,000 kilograms (one-ton) warhead at least 1,500 kilometres (900 miles), well within range of Israel.
This is the first time that a high-ranking Iranian official points to the existence of a nuclear defence program that is in the process to be improved.
"These improvements do not only concern the missile, but all other aspects related to our defence”, he said, adding that the weapon does not menace any European nation, excluding states in the region, particularly Israel.
When a journalist asked if the Defence Ministry is involved in nuclear activities, the Minister responded vaguely, saying “yes and not”.
“No, because our nuclear activities are for peaceful purposes, as confirmed by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that in all its latest findings had stated that we are not diverting these activities towards military use. But yes, because at the same time we work on a nuclear activity that have a defensive purpose, only intervention in the nuclear area, meaning nuclear protection", Mr. Shamkhani explained.
"The Israelis are trying hard to improve the capacity of their missiles, and we are also trying to improve the Shahab-3 in a short time," he said, denying the Islamic republic was working on a more advanced Shahab-4.
Analysts immediately said that this is the first time that a high-ranking Iranian official points to the existence of a nuclear defence program that is in the process to be improved.
“Shamkhani’s declarations to journalists would provide more credit to the Americans and Israelis accusing the Islamic Republic of producing nuclear weapon aimed at destroying the Jewish State”, the analysts said, adding that some years ago, Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, Iran’s second man in command had urged Muslim nations to drop an atomic bomb over Israel.
Israel is so najes (an Arabic word meaning dirty, or unclean, used by Muslims against mostly the Jews and also the Christians), so dirty that we are even not willing to ask them for payment of the debts they have to us from before the Islamic Revolution.
"If a military operation is carried out against us, we cannot do nothing, so we are investing in nuclear protection", he said referring to possible attack from Israel's suspected nuclear arsenal. "That's why we have to invest on nuclear defence preparation", he added without elaborating.
“We consider Israel as najes (an Arabic word meaning dirty, or unclean, used by Muslims against mostly the Jews and also the Christians). So dirty that we are even not willing to ask them for payment of the debts they have to us from before the Islamic Revolution (of 1979), because we consider that even the money is also unclean”, he told a journalist quoting Arab press claiming that Iran’s stated opposition to the Jewish State is a a parody, standing no nothing more than a war of words.
Mr. Shamkhani was referring to some 300 millions US Dollars Israel owes to Iran from the oil it used to sell to Israel and the investment in a pipeline carrying the oil from the port of Ashdod to a nearby refinery.
Israel successfully tested recently its Arrow II anti-missile missile in the United States. It was the seventh time the missile has worked, but the first time it destroyed a real Scud missile.
Israeli officials made it clear the improved anti-missile system was aimed squarely at fending off any attack by Iran, Israel's arch foe.
The Shahab-3 is believed to be derived from technology acquired from Pakistan and North Korea, though Shamkhani denied any dealings between Tehran and Pyongyang.
Six Shahab-3 missiles were paraded in Tehran in September during commemorations of the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war. One of them carried a banner declaring "We will wipe Israel from the map".
Mr. Shamkhani rejected American latest allegations that his country was providing test sites for North Korean long-range missiles designed to deliver nuclear warheads, saying, Iran does not cooperate with North Korea in missile technology and it does not need to.
Tehran is at loggerhead with both the IAEA and Europe’s “Big 3”, namely Britain, France and Germany over its controversial enriching uranium programs.
US Secretary of State Colin Powell said last Thursday that it was "more and more likely" that Iran would be referred to the UN Security Council as a possible prelude to sanctions.
Mr. Kamal Kharrazi, Iran's Foreign Affairs Minister asserted Wednesday the Islamic republic had a "legitimate right" to enrich uranium, the most sensitive part of the nuclear fuel cycle that the country is under pressure to abandon.
"We will lobby for our rights in the international community to deal with the negative atmosphere our enemies have created against Iran", he was quoted as saying by the state news agency IRNA.
"We will never allow the enemy to trample upon our legitimate rights enshrined in the international conventions," he added, as hard line conservative lawmakers and press are urging the government of the powerless President Khatami to get out of the Non Proliferation Treaty and end cooperation with IAES. ENDS IRAN DEFENCE 7804