UK: Iran conducting secret ballistic missile tests
Updated: 2011-06-30 09:55
LONDON - Iran has conducted covert tests of ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads in addition to a 10-day program of public military maneuvers, Britain alleged.
Foreign Secretary William Hague told the House of Commons on Wednesday that there had been secret experiments with nuclear-capable missiles, but did not specify precisely when the tests had taken place.
Britain believes Tehran has conducted at least three secret tests of medium-range ballistic missiles since October, amid an apparent escalation of its nuclear program and increased scrutiny from the International Atomic Energy Agency.
A UN Panel of Experts report leaked to the media last month reported that Iran conducted secret ballistic missile tests in October and February.
During the tests, the report said, Iran launched a liquid-fueled Shahab 3 missile, with a range of 560 miles (900 kilometers), and one or two solid-fueled Sejil 2 missiles, with a range of 1,240 miles (2,000 kilometers).
Both missiles are believed to be capable of carrying a nuclear warhead, the UN experts said. They did not say if the tests were successful, or provide other details.
The Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security, an arms control group, raised concerns about the secret tests in a posting on its website.
The group pointed out that a 2010 UN Security Council resolution prohibits Iran from "any activity related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches..."
Iran is displaying its military hardware in a series of war games in an apparent show of openness, and on Tuesday fired 14 missiles in public tests.
However, the UK believes that the covert missile tests show Iran's leaders are seeking to avoid scrutiny over the real extent of their weapons programs.
"On the back of the recent IAEA report and the unanswered questions about its nuclear program, they only serve to undermine further Iran's claims that its nuclear program is entirely for civilian use," said a Foreign Office spokesman, on customary condition of anonymity in line with policy.
An IAEA report last month listed "high-voltage firing and instrumentation for explosives testing over long distances and possibly underground" as one of seven "areas of concern" that Iran may be conducting clandestine nuclear weapons work.
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