Saturday, December 19, 2009

Western Leaders Condemned I.R. Iran Over Missile Test

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The Times

Western governments united to denounce Iran’s test-firing of a long-range ballistic missile yesterday, warning that it would only increase international determination to press for more sanctions on Tehran if it refused to negotiate over its nuclear programme. Gordon Brown led the call for stricter sanctions, calling the missile test a cause for serious concern that drew further into question Iran’s professed peaceful intentions over its nuclear programme. The United States, France and Germany joined in the condemnation. Germany called the test alarming, and France described it as “a very bad signal to the international community”. The first test of an improved version of the Sejil-2 missile, which is capable of reaching Israel and US bases in the Gulf, was reported early yesterday in a one-sentence announcement on Iranian state television, accompanied by a clip showing the missile rising from the launch pad in a cloud of smoke. “The missile hit its intended target,” the announcement said. The extended range of 1,200 miles puts not only targets across the Middle East within striking distance but also reaches southeastern Europe. The new solid-fuel missile is also believed to have greater accuracy than previous models, which were capable of hitting Israel.

“Sejil” means means “baked clay” in Farsi, a reference to a Koranic verse in which God sends birds to drive away attackers from Mecca by bombarding them with stones of baked clay. General Ahmad Vahidi, the Iranian Defence Minister, vowed that the new, faster version of the missile would be a “strong deterrent” against any foreign attack. “Given its high speed it is impossible to destroy the missile with anti-missile systems because of its radar-evading ability,” he said. Israel, which has repeatedly threatened to take military action against Iran’s nuclear facilities, declined to comment on the test. Mr Brown, who is attending the climate conference in Copenhagen, said: “This is a matter of serious concern to the international community and it does make the case for us moving farther on sanctions.” The Prime Minister said that he had spoken to Ban Ki Moon, the United Nations Secretary-General, about the Iranian missile test. “We will treat this with the seriousness it deserves,” he added. In Washington Mike Hammer, the National Security Council spokesman, said: “At a time when the international community has offered Iran opportunities to begin to build trust and confidence, Iran’s missile tests only undermine Iran’s claims of peaceful intentions. Such actions will increase the seriousness and resolve of the international community to hold Iran accountable for its continued defiance of its international obligations on its nuclear programme.” (Read more...)