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Iran test fires surface-to-air missile in show of strength

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
January 4th, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

In a show of determination and military strength, Iran's navy announced that it test-fired an advanced surface-to-air missile during a drill in international waters near the strategic Strait of Hormuz. The Hormuz provides the passageway for one-sixth of the world's oil supply. The missile, named Mehrab, or Altar, is designed to evade radar and was developed by Iranian scientists.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - A leading Iranian lawmaker said the sea maneuvers serve as practice for closing the Strait of Hormuz if the West blocks Iran's oil sales. Military commanders now emphasize that Iran has no intention of blocking the waterway now.

The exercise covers a 1,250-mile stretch of water beyond the Strait of Hormuz, including parts of the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden.

The latest news comes after growing international criticism over Iran's nuclear program. The West fears Iran's program aims to develop atomic weapons, a charge Tehran denies, saying the nuclear program is strictly for civilian, peaceful applications.

Iranian military officials have since appeared to back away from threatening to close the Strait of Hormuz.

Military spokesman Rear Adm. Mahmoud Mousavi made a conciliatory comment this past weekend.

"We won't disrupt traffic through the Strait of Hormuz. We are not after this," the semiofficial ISNA news agency quoted him as saying.

Mousavi added that the missile tested Sunday is one of the newest in the navy's arsenal.

"It's equipped with state-of-the-art technology and a built-in system that enables it to thwart jammers," Mousavi told state TV. One way to deflect surface-to-air missiles is to confuse their guidance systems.

Prominent lawmaker Ismail Kowsari says the war games are part of Iran's preparations to close the vital waterway if sanctions are imposed. "Iran's armed forces have practiced operations to close the Strait of Hormuz several times," the semiofficial Fars news agency quoted Kowsari as saying Sunday.

"If we feel that the enemies want to prevent our oil exports, definitely we will close the Strait of Hormuz," he said.

Iranian scientists produced the nation's first nuclear fuel rod, a feat of engineering the West doubted Tehran was capable of, Iran officials said this past weekend.

The announcement comes after Iran has said it was compelled to manufacture fuel rods on its own since international sanctions banned Tehran from buying them on foreign markets.

Nuclear fuel rods contain pellets of enriched uranium that provide fuel for nuclear power plants.

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