updated 3/7/2010 11:35:14 AM ET 2010-03-07T16:35:14

Iran said Sunday it has launched a new production line of highly accurate, short range cruise missiles, which would add a new element to the country's already imposing arsenal.

Gen. Ahmad Vahidi told Iranian state TV that the cruise missile, called Nasr 1, would be capable of destroying targets up to 3,000 tons in size.

The minister said the missile can be launched from the surface but would eventually be modified to be fired from helicopters and submarines.

The world is already concerned about Iran's military capabilities, especially the implications of its nuclear program. The U.S. and some of its allies, as well as the International Atomic Energy Agency, say Iran is apparently trying to produce nuclear weapons, a charge Iran denies.

The West is considering stiffer sanctions against Iran to try to force it to halt uranium enrichment, a process that has civilian uses but can be also used for nuclear arms if the uranium is enriched over 90 percent.

Iran also has an array of missiles from short to medium range that could hit targets including Israel, U.S. military bases in the region and much of Europe.

Iran frequently makes announcements about new advances in military technology that cannot be independently verified.

Gen. Vahidi said the production of the cruise missiles, which took two years to develop, showed that sanctions on Iran have failed. He said the cruise missiles would strengthen Iran's naval power.

Cruise missiles are highly advanced, usually subsonic rocket-powered weapons that can hug the ground and hit targets with great precision. U.S. forces used large numbers of cruise missiles in its attack on Baghdad in 2002. Most were launched from warships in the Persian Gulf.

The state TV showed a video of boxes in a warehouse containing several missiles. It also showed footage of Iran's cruise missile test in 2007. That missile was apparently imported.

Iran began a military self-sufficiency program in 1992, under which it produces a large range of weapons, including tanks, missiles, jet fighters, unmanned drone aircraft and torpedoes.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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