Report: Iran test-fires more missiles

Image: Condoleezza Rice
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice speaks Thursday at a joint news conference after talks with Georgia's President Mikheil Saakashvili in Tbilisi.David Mdzinarishvili / Reuters
/ Source: news services

Iran test-fired more long-range missiles overnight in a second round of exercises meant to show that the country can defend itself against any attack by the United States or Israel, Iranian state television reported Thursday.

The weapons have “special capabilities” and included missiles launched from naval ships in the Persian Gulf, along with torpedoes and surface-to-surface missiles, the broadcast said. It did not elaborate.

A brief video clip showed two missiles being fired simultaneously in the darkness. An intelligence official in Washington said there had been a second test and that it was small.

"It does appear that they had a small military exercise last evening, very small," the intelligence official told Reuters.

‘We will defend American interests’
The launches come hours after Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice warned Iran that Washington will not back down in the face of threats against Israel.

“We are sending a message to Iran that we will defend American interests and the interests of our allies,” Rice said Thursday in Georgia at the close of a three-day Eastern European trip.

“We take very, very strongly our obligation to help our allies defend themselves and no one should be confused about that,” Rice said after meeting Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili.

Israel, which has long been assumed to have its own atomic arsenal, has sworn to prevent Iran from emerging as a nuclear-armed power. Last month it staged an air force exercise that stoked speculation about a possible assault on Iranian nuclear sites.

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said he favored diplomatic pressure and sanctions, but that, "Israel is the strongest country in the region and has proved in the past it is not afraid to take action when its vital security interests are at stake."

Among the missiles Iran said it tested Wednesday was a new version of the Shahab-3, which officials have said has a range of 1,250 miles and is armed with a 1-ton conventional warhead.

That would put Israel, Turkey, the Arabian peninsula, Afghanistan and Pakistan all within striking distance.

Wednesday’s missile tests were conducted at the Strait of Hormuz, a strategic waterway at the mouth of the Persian Gulf through which about 40 percent of the world’s oil passes. Iran has threatened to shut down traffic in the strait if attacked.

Iranian state TV and radio said that Thursday's missile tests took place during the night into Thursday.

“Deep in the Persian Gulf waters, the launch of different types of ground-to-sea, surface-to-surface, sea-to-air and the powerful launch of the Hout missile successfully took place,” state radio said without giving further details of the missiles.

Iranian satellite channel Press TV said Hout was a torpedo.

Oil prices jumped on news of Wednesday’s tests, rising $1.44 to $137.48 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.