After U.S.-Israel Talks, Iran Announces Test Launch of New Missile
The test of the solid-fuel Sajjil-2missile reportedly took
place in the northern Iranian city of Semnan, where Ahmadinejad spoke shortly
after. “Sajjil-2, which has advanced technology, was launched from Semnan
and hit its exact target,” the state-run Fars news agency quoted
Ahmadinejad as saying. “In the near future, we will launch more powerful
missiles with longer ranges.”
U.S. defense officials said the Pentagon is studying the launch.
The announcement comes just after Israeli Prime Minister and
President Barack Obama met in the Oval Office for two hours Monday to discuss
Israeli and American approaches toward Iran. Mr. Obama said then that the U.S.
administration is willing to seek stronger sanctions against Iran if it refuses
to curb its nuclear program, adding that he expects to see a “good-faith
effort” from Iran by the end of year. The test Wednesday is likely to
deepen Israeli concerns about Iran’s military intentions in the region.
Last November, Iran test-fired a forerunner to the missile
launched Wednesday – the Sajjil, also with a range of 1,200 miles. The earlier
version of the missile uses liquid fuel; the Sejil-2 uses solid fuel, which
takes up less space in the weapon’s 85-foot length. The BBC reported that
solid-fuel missiles are more accurate than those powered by liquid fuel.
In a speech to several thousand supporters Wednesday, Ahmadinejad
reportedly described the launch in belligerent terms. “In the nuclear
case, we send them a message: Today the Islamic Republic of Iran is running the
show,” Ahmadinejad said in a speech that was broadcast live on Iranian
television. “We say to the superpowers, who of you dare to threaten the
Iranian nation? Raise your hand! But they all stand there with their hands
behind their backs.”
The announcement also comes as campaigning begins in earnest
for Iran’s upcoming June 12 president election. On Wednesday, the country’s
electoral authorities confirmed the eligibility of four candidates from a field
of more than 450 people – including more than three dozen women – who had
registered as potential candidates. Four men — Ahmadinejad; Mir Hussein Moussavi,
a moderate politician and former prime minister; Mehdi Karroubi, another
moderate politician and former speaker of Parliament; and Mohsen Rezai, a
former head of the Revolutionary Guards – will be allowed to run.