Iran shows off new longer-range missile

Iran on Saturday showed off a new longer-range missile named the “Ghadr,” saying it had a range of 1,800 kilometres (1,100 miles), in an annual military parade to mark an eight-year war with Iraq.

The “Ghadr” – meaning “power” – appears to be an upgrade of Iran’s existing longer-range missile the Shahab-3, which according to Iranian officials has a range of 1,300 kilometres (805 miles).

Iran faces growing international pressure over its controversial nuclear programme, which the West fears is a covert weapons drive.

The United States and its ally Israel have never ruled out using military strikes to punish Iran for its defiance in the nuclear standoff.

Tehran has insisted it would never launch any attack against a foreign country, but it has also warned of a crushing response to any aggression.

“Iran is an influential power in the region and the world should know that this power has always served peace, stability, brotherhood and justice,” President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said in a speech to mark the event.

The military trucks in the parade, held at the shrine of Iran’s revolutionary father Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, carried anti-American and anti-Israeli slogans, including calls for the elimination of the Jewish state.

“Israel should be eliminated and Iran does not recognise Israel” and “Israel has to be wiped off the map,” read the inscriptions quoting comments made by the late Khomeini.

Widely considered the Middle East’s sole if undeclared nuclear power, Israel considers Iran its number one enemy in the wake of Ahmadinejad’s repeated calls for the destruction Israel.

Earlier an Iranian air force commander said that the military had drawn up a plan under which its fighter jets could bomb Israel if the Jewish state launched a military attack against the Islamic republic over its atomic drive.

His comments came after French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner warned that the world should brace for war against Tehran if it keeps defying the UN Security Council and presses on with sensitive nuclear work.

At the beginning of the parade there was a fly-past by three “Saegheh” planes, Iran’s new fighter jet, and Tehran vowed to show off more home-grown weapons during the week-long ceremony that marks the “sacred defence.”

Iran fought a bloody war with Iraq from 1980 to 1988, but it has enjoyed warm ties with the Shiite-majority Iraqi government after the ouster of Saddam Hussein by US-led forces in 2003.

The United States accuses Iran of interference and arming insurgents in Iraq. Iran blames the occupation forces for violence and instability in its western neighbour.

“The presence of illegitimate forces in the region is the cause of all threats and differences. Their pullout would benefit themselves, the region and stable security,” Ahmadinejad said.

Iran’s military elite has also warned Washington of the consequences for its interests of any attack, saying US bases in neighbouring Afghanistan and Iraq are well within the range of its missiles.