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Last Updated: Monday, 7 July, 2003, 12:04 GMT 13:04 UK
Iran missile test alarms Israel
Shahab-3 missile test, shown on Iranian TV
Iran says its missiles are meant as a deterrent
Israel has said it is "very concerned" after Iran confirmed it had conducted a final test of a missile capable of hitting its territory.

"We are very concerned, especially since we know that Iran is seeking to acquire the nuclear weapon," government spokesman Avi Pazner told AFP.

Iran has denied accusations by Israel and the United States that it is trying to develop nuclear weapons, and insists its missile programme is purely meant as a deterrent.

The head of the United Nations nuclear watchdog, Mohamed ElBaradei, is due to visit Tehran this week to seek clarification of Iran's nuclear programme.

The Shahab-3 ballistic missile test took place "several weeks ago," foreign ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi told reporters.

International demands

The surface-to-surface missile, first tested in 1998, has a range of 1,300 kilometres (800 miles).

The test was the final one before the missile is handed over for operation by the country's army, Mr Asefi said, giving no further information.

The Shahab-3 could also reach eastern Turkey and Pakistan.

Mr ElBaradei is due to arrive in Tehran on Wednesday. As head of the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), he is expected to renew his call for Iran to sign up to more intrusive inspections of its nuclear power facilities.

Iran has so far refused to agree to tougher inspections, insisting it is only interested in atomic energy for production of electricity.

"There is no 'have-to' involved," said Mr Asefi.

"We hope that in negotiations with Mr ElBaradei, the two sides can cover subjects that allow us to build mutual trust."

Military analysts say the Shahab-3 missile is based on North Korea's No Dong surface-to-surface missile but Iran says it is entirely locally made.

The US last week imposed sanctions on five Chinese firms and a North Korean company for allegedly selling weapons technology to Iran. The companies have denied the charges.

In Farsi, Shahab means "meteor" or "shooting star".

Iran launched an arms development programme after its 1980-88 war with Iraq, following a US weapons embargo.

Since 1992, Iran has announced the production of missiles, a fighter plane, tanks and armoured personnel vehicles.


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