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Iran adds "strategic missile' to arsenal after good test

Iran added a "strategic missile" to its military arsenal after a successful test, and the defense minister said Saturday his country was ready to confront any external threat.

The report by state-run radio did not say whether the test involved the previously announced new version of the Shahab-3 rocket, capable of reaching Israel and U.S. forces stationed in the Middle East, or a different missile.

"This strategic missile was successfully test fired during military exercises by the Revolutionary Guards and delivered to the armed forces," Defense Minister Ali Shamkhani was quoted as saying.

The exercises were held Sept. 12-18.

Shamkhani refused to give details about the missile for "security reasons," but he said Iran was "ready to confront all regional and extra-regional threats," according to the radio.

Defense Ministry officials could not be reached for comment.

The announcement in Tehran came amid a war of words between Iran and Israel this week as Iran faces increasing international pressure over its nuclear energy program.

The United States _ which once labeled Iran part of an "axis of evil" with North Korea and prewar Iraq _ and other nations suspect Iran is developing atomic weapons.

The United Nations' atomic watchdog agency, the International Atomic Energy Agency, has demanded Iran freeze its uranium enrichment program _ a demand that Iran has termed "illegal" but has not rejected outright.

Iranian officials have repeatedly said the country's nuclear program is a peaceful one.

Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said Iran was a worldwide threat whose missiles can reach London, Paris and southern Russia.

In 1981, Israel bombed Iraq's nuclear reactor before the reactor could begin operating and the smart bombs are believed to be capable of destroying Iranian nuclear facilities.

This month, Israel said it was buying from the United States about 5,000 smart bombs, including 500 1-ton bunker-busters that can destroy 6-foot-thick concrete walls.

Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi has warned that Tehran would react "most severely" to any Israeli strike against its nuclear facilities.

Israel is the only nation in the Middle East that possesses nuclear weapons, although Israeli officials have refused to confirm it.

Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards staged maneuvers this month near the Iraqi border, with military officials saying the exercise was designed to reinforce Iran's resolve to defend itself against "big powers."

During the maneuvers, a "long-range missile" would be test fired, state-run radio said. There was no official confirmation of the test.

In August, Iran said it test fired a new version of its Shahab-3 ballistic missile. Iran's Defense Ministry did not give its range, but Israeli sources in Jerusalem said it could reach targets more than 1,200 miles away, or 400 miles farther than its previous range.

The development of the Shahab, whose name means "shooting star" in Persian, has raised fears in Israel about possible attack by the Iranian government, which strongly opposes the Jewish state.