Page last updated at 16:43 GMT, Friday, 11 July 2008 17:43 UK

Tests show US shield 'not needed'

Shahab-3 missile being launched on 9 July
Iran launched a series of missile tests in the desert this week

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said the results of Iran's missile tests prove that US plans for a defence shield in Europe are unnecessary.

Mr Lavrov said the tests confirmed Tehran had missiles with a limited range of up to 2,000km (1,240 miles).

The US says it wants shield sites in Poland and the Czech Republic to defend it and its allies from rogue states.

Meanwhile, Iraqi and Israeli officials denied media reports that Israeli air force jets trained in Iraqi airspace.

The reports said Israeli aircraft had used Iraqi airspace - and US bases in Iraq - to practice for a potential strike on Iran's nuclear facilities.

Iran has denied Western assertions that it is developing nuclear weapons and insisted its nuclear programme is intended for peaceful purposes.

Following widespread condemnation over the recent ballistic missile tests, Iran said it was open to talks about its nuclear programme.

The official news agency, Irna, said the chief Iranian nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, would meet the European Union's envoy, Javier Solana, on 19 July in Geneva - although this has not yet been confirmed by Mr Solana's office.

The BBC's Jon Leyne in Tehran says that although Iran seems willing to talk, it is unclear whether it is willing to give any ground.

A missile defence shield with these parameters is not needed to monitor or react to such threats
Sergei Lavrov
Russian Foreign Minister

Iran denies Western assertions that it is developing nuclear weapons and insists its nuclear programme is intended for peaceful purposes.

Some analysts saw this week's missile tests as an attempt by hardliners to discourage compromise.

The EU urged Iran to suspend uranium enrichment within its nuclear programme, saying that the missile tests "can only reinforce the international community's concerns".

"The EU calls on Iran to respond to the demands of the entire international community... and achieve a negotiated solution to the nuclear issue," a statement issued in Paris said.

The tests are said to have included the Shahab-3 missile, which is capable of reaching Israel and a number of US allies in the region, but not the proposed US shield bases in Poland and the Czech Republic.

Map of missile range

Earlier this week, the US signed an agreement with the Czech Republic which would allow the Americans to build a tracking radar station there as part of the system they hope will be operational by 2012.

Washington also hopes to place 10 interceptor missiles in Poland but has yet to reach agreement with the government there.

'Imagined' threat

The BBC's James Rodgers, in Moscow, says repeated assurances from senior figures in Washington have failed to convince Moscow that the proposed shield represents no danger to Russia.

Mr Lavrov told reporters on Friday the tests showed that "a missile defence shield with these parameters is not needed to monitor or react to such threats".

He said Moscow was convinced that what he called the imagined nature of the Iranian missile threat was a pretext for the missile shield.

"We believe that any issue related to Iran should be resolved through negotiation, through political-diplomatic means... and not through threats," he said.

Moscow fears locating the system near its borders could weaken its own defences or be used to spy on Russia. It has previously threatened to aim its own missiles at any eventual base in Poland or the Czech Republic.


Footage of Iranian missile test on Wednesday

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