| A truck carrying the medium-range Shahab-3 missile at the parade south of Tehran on Monday. (Reuters)
Tehran, Sept. 22 (Reuters): Iran, under mounting pressure to dispel fears it is developing nuclear arms, today paraded six of its newly-deployed medium-range missiles which military analysts say could reach Israel or US bases in the Gulf.
It was the largest number of Shahab-3 ballistic missiles put on public display since Iran announced in July it had finished testing the weapon and deployed it to the Revolutionary Guards.
The sand-coloured Shahab-3 ballistic missiles, towed along to the accompaniment of rousing military music, were the climax of a lengthy march-past to commemorate the start of the bloody 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war.
Iran’s reformist President Mohammad Khatami said the show of strength was not to be read as sabre-rattling. “The Islamic Republic of Iran’s policy is based on detente,” he said to the parade led by disabled war veterans. “We are opposed to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and nuclear weapons but we insist on our absolute right to be powerful in the scientific and technological arena.”
Television pictures showed one of the missile carriers displayed a defiant message in bold letters on a giant yellow banner facing Khatami which said: “We will stamp on America.” Iran insists its nuclear scientists are not working on a weapons programme but trying to meet soaring electricity demand.
UN nuclear watchdog International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) declined to comment on the missiles. The IAEA governing board has given Iran until the end of October to dispel doubts that its stated policy of developing nuclear energy was not a cover for building atomic arms.
Iran’s government blames Israel and the US for creating doubts about its nuclear ambitions and has said it has no intention of following North Korea’s example of pulling out of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
“Israel, which does not respect international law, enjoys the support of certain states, but many powers want to put pressure on Iran as a result of Israel’s provocations,” Khatami said. Based on the North Korean Nodong-1 and modified with Russian technology, the Shahab-3 is thought to have a range of 1,300 km.
Iran says it is intended to serve purely as a deterrent and has not declared how many Shahab-3 it has been able to manufacture.