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Saturday, July 25, 1998 Published at 22:59 GMT 23:59 UK

World: Middle East

Iran acknowledges missile test

Iran has confirmed US reports that it has tested a new medium-range missile.

The Defence Minister, Ali Shamkani, told Iranian state and television that the test was carried out through the efforts of Iranian military experts and without "any foreign support".

"The defence policy of the Islamic republic is based on improving its deterrent capability," he said.

"Considering the developments in the immediate region and beyond, the will of the Islamic republic is to preserve peace."

Mr Shamkhani said the missile had a range of 1,300km but he gave no other details on its type and the location of the test site.

He also did not comment on US reports that the missile blew up in mid-flight. American experts believe Iran has not yet developed full medium-range capability.

The US - whose spy satellites detected the test on Wednesday - says they have identified it as the Shahab-3 missile.

Correspondents say it is a missile of North Korean design, capable of striking Israel, Saudi Arabia, parts of Russia and Turkey.

Fierce US and Israeli reaction

The test drew strong criticism from the US and President Clinton warned it could be an obstacle to Washington developing better relations with Teheran.

Israel also expressed concern over the missile test and said it would take any necessary steps to defend itself.

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