Press Association – November 28, 2007
A Pentagon official has expressed concern and surprise about Iran's claim to have a new long-range missile
, saying it bolsters the need for a missile shield in Europe.
"It shows a progression, a continuing progression on greater and greater ranges of missiles," Lt Gen Henry Obering, head of the US missile defence programme, said during a visit to Paris.
"If what they are announcing is true, it also talks about a qualitative improvement in their capabilities," he said.
Iran's military said on Tuesday it has manufactured a new missile with a range of 2,000 kilometres (1,200 miles) that was capable of reaching Israel and US bases across the Middle East, the official news agency IRNA reported. Iranian officials did not say whether Iran had test-fired the Ashoura.
The announcement, Lt Gen Obering said, shows "why we need to get on with the missile defence."
Lt Gen Obering has made a dozen trips to Europe to win over European allies to US plans for a radar station in the Czech Republic and a battery of 10 intercepter missiles in Poland - both aimed at fending off attacks from Iran.
Russia, fearing it too could be targeted by the US system, is staunchly opposed to the idea.
Washington presented Moscow a new offer of cooperation on the missile defence proposal last week. On Wednesday, Russia's military chief called it a smoke screen for the US to proceed with its Polish and Czech plans.
Lt Gen Obering called the Russian reaction "disappointing," but insisted that talks with Russian officials were continuing to address their concerns. He said a key dispute with Russia is over how quickly the system could be made operational in the event of an Iranian missile test or other "trigger" event.
Iran's avowed new missile, Lt Gen Obering said, "is different, that's what surprises us." He would not elaborate on how. "That's what we're concerned about, this unbridled, continuing development and potential proliferation of these weapons. That's why we think it's important to begin now" on a European missile defence, he said.
Last updated 03/12/2007