Iran Says It Test Fired Upgraded Missile

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Iran announced Wednesday it has successfully test fired an upgraded version of its longest-range, solid-fuel missile which it said is faster and harder to shoot down.

State television broke the news in a one-sentence report accompanied by a brief clip of the test.

Defense Minister Gen. Ahmad Vahidi later spoke on television, describing the Sajjil-2 as a high-speed, surface-to-surface missile that would serve as a "strong deterrent" against any possible foreign attack.

"Given its high speed," he said, "it is impossible to destroy the missile with anti-missile systems because of its radar-evading ability."

The Sajjil-2 is a two-stage missile with a range of about 1,200 miles (1,930 kilometers). That range places Israel, Iran's sworn enemy, well within reach and reaches as far away as southeastern Europe with greater precision than earlier models.

It is Iran's most advanced two-stage missile and is powered entirely by solid-fuel while the older, long-range Shahab-3 missile uses a combination of solid and liquid fuel in its most advanced form.

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor declined to comment on Iran's latest missile test.

Iran has intensified its missile development program in recent years, a source of serious concern in Israel, the United States and its Western allies at a time when they accuse Tehran of seeking to build a nuclear weapon. Iran, which is under several sets of U.N. sanctions over its nuclear program, denies the charges and says its nuclear program is aimed solely at generating electricity.

Israel has not ruled out a military strike against Iran's nuclear facilities. Iran, in turn, has threatened that such an attack would be retaliated against with strikes on Israel's own nuclear sites.

The name "Sajjil" means "baked clay," a reference to a story in the Quran, Islam's holy book, in which birds sent by God drive off an enemy army attacking the holy city of Mecca by pelting them with stones of baked clay.

Solid-fuel missiles like the Sajjil-2 are more accurate than the liquid fuel missiles of similar range currently possessed by Iran. The country has for several years had a solid-fuel missile, the Fateh, but with the much shorter range of 120 miles.

Iran's arms manufacturing program began during the country's ruinous 1980-88 war with neighboring Iraq to compensate for a U.S. arms embargo. Since 1992, Iran has produced its own tanks, armored personnel carriers, missiles and a fighter plane. The actual capabilities of the weapons, including the accuracy and range of the country's homemade missiles, are difficult to ascertain given the secrecy of the Iranian military.

This program aired on December 16, 2009. The audio for this program is not available.