Page last updated at 02:38 GMT, Thursday, 13 November 2008

Iran tests new long-range missile


Iranian footage of the Sajjil missile test

Iran says it has successfully tested a new long-range surface-to-surface missile that is capable of hitting targets in Europe.

Known as the Sajjil, it was described on state TV as a high-speed, solid-fuel missile with a high level of accuracy.

Defence Minister Mohammed Najjar said the missile was a "defensive" weapon.

Western nations and Israel suspect Iran is seeking to develop an atomic weapon and some have called for pre-emptive strikes against its facilities.

Speculation of a possible strike either by the US or by Israel rose earlier in the year, but has receded amid the lengthy US presidential election campaign.

However, US President-elect Barack Obama has refused to rule out the option of launching a military attack on Iran.

'Deterrent doctrine'

Speaking on state TV, Mr Najjar said the new two-stage missile had an "extraordinarily large capability", but gave few specific details other than its estimated range - of up to 1,200 miles (1,930km).

That would comfortably be enough to strike targets in Israel, as well as bringing into range a swathe of south-eastern Europe.

Iran's current solid-fuel missile, the Fateh, has a range of just 100 miles (170km). Solid-fuel missiles are reputedly more accurate than liquid-fuel missiles, which make up the majority of Iran's long-range arsenal.

"This missile test is in the framework of Iran's deterrent doctrine," the official Irna news agency quoted Mr Najjar as saying.

"It will only land on the heads of those enemies... who want to make an aggression and invade the Islamic republic," he added.

In Washington, the US state department said the launch was "of concern to the international community".

The Pentagon said the latest test demonstrated the need for the US to press ahead with its planned missile shield in Europe.

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