TEHRAN, (Reuters) – Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards will hold missile defence exercises over several days starting on Sunday to boost the Islamic Republic’s deterrence capability, Iranian media reported.
Saturday’s announcement coincided with increased tension in Iran’s nuclear dispute with the West, after Tehran disclosed it was building a second uranium enrichment plant.
The reports did not say what kind of missiles would be used in the war games. In May, Iran said it had tested a missile that defence analysts said could hit Israel and U.S. bases in the Gulf.
The United States, which suspects Iran wants to build nuclear bombs, has previously expressed concern about Tehran’s missile programme.
Iran often conducts war games or tests weapons to show its determination to counter any attack by foes such as Israel or the United States.
A statement quoted by Iranian news agencies said the goal of the exercises by the Revolutionary Guards’ air force, was “to raise the deterrence capability of the Iranian armed forces”.
General Hossein Salami, head of the Guards’ air force, said the games would include simultaneous firings of missiles at targets, the Guards’ website reported. The exercises will last several days and take place in various locations.
The West has accused Iran of seeking to acquire atomic weapons but Tehran says its nuclear activities are aimed at generating electricity so that it can export more oil and gas.
Neither the United States nor its ally Israel have ruled out military action if diplomacy fails to resolve the nuclear row.
Iran has said it would respond to any attack by targeting U.S. interests in the region and Israel, as well as closing the Strait of Hormuz, a vital route for world oil supplies.
Iran acknowledged the existence of the enrichment plant near the holy city of Qom for the first time on Monday in a letter to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the U.N. nuclear watchdog.
U.S. officials said the disclosure was designed to pre-empt an announcement by Western governments, which were aware of the site, but Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said the plant was legal and open for inspection by the IAEA.
U.S. President Barack Obama said on Saturday the discovery of a secret nuclear plant in Iran showed a “disturbing pattern” of evasion by Tehran which added urgency to its Oct 1. talks with world powers in Geneva.
Last week Obama scrapped a Bush-era plan to deploy missiles in Poland that had been proposed amid concerns Iran was trying to develop nuclear warheads it could mount on long-range missiles.