- The Washington Times - Friday, September 22, 2000

Iran conducted the third test launch of its new medium-range missile, but the rocket exploded shortly after liftoff, U.S. intelligence officials said yesterday.
The Shahab-3 missile firing was detected by U.S. space sensors during launch from a site in Iran and announced by an Iranian government spokesman in Tehran.
"They did indeed attempt a launch and it didn't go particularly well," said one intelligence official. "It is not a very good sign" for the missile program.
Defense Minister Ali Shamkhani told the official IRNA news agency that the test of a Shahab-3D was conducted as part of events marking the start of anniversary of the start of the war with Iraq, which began in 1980 and ended in 1988.
The spokesman said the missile was "solid-fueled" and will be used only for launching communications satellites and not warheads.
"The necessary basis for designing and producing carriers to put satellites in orbit have been created," Mr. Shamkhani said. "No military use has been forecast for Shahab-3D."
Iran also tested a Shahab-3 in July and that test was successful, U.S. officials said. A third test was carried out last year.
On Capitol Hill, CIA official Robert Walpole told a Senate subcommittee hearing that the official Iranian announcement was not accurate.
"We view this as a missile," Mr. Walpole told the Senate Governmental Affairs subcommittee on proliferation.
The Washington Times first reported Sept. 8 that Tehran was preparing a flight test of the 800-mile range Shahab-3.
Intelligence officials said the test had been set for late August and preparations for the test were detected in the late stages. It was put off to avoid embarrassing Iranian President Mohammed Khatami during his visit to the U.N. Millennium Summit, the officials said.
The Senate hearing yesterday was to examine Iran's missile and nuclear, chemical and biological programs.
"In the last five years, as the intelligence community now recognizes, Iran has made rapid progress in the development of longer-range ballistic missiles because of assistance from North Korea, Russia and China," said Sen. Thad Cochran, Mississippi Republican and the subcommittee chairman.
"Beyond its own efforts to develop and acquire more advanced ballistic missiles, Iran has also become a supplier of ballistic-missile technology and assistance to other nations."
During the hearing, Mr. Walpole stated that Iran's missile program is "the largest in the Middle East" and rivals that of North Korea.
"Iran has very active missile and weapons-of-mass-destruction development programs and is seeking foreign missile, nuclear and chemical and biological technology," he said.
"Entities in Russia, China and North Korea supply the largest amount of ballistic-missile technology in Iran," he said.
Mr. Walpole offered this warning during the hearing: "The probability that a missile with a weapon of mass-destruction [warhead] would be used against U.S. forces or interests is higher today than during most of the Cold War, and will continue to grow."
A. Norman Schindler, deputy director of the CIA's Nonproliferation Center, said Iran currently is in violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention and the Biological Warfare Convention.
Mr. Schindler said Iran currently has a stockpile of several thousand metric tons of weaponized and bulk chemical weapons agents.
On the biological weapons of Iran, Mr. Schindler said Tehran has some stocks of agent and weapons.
"Tehran continues to develop its biological capability despite its being a party to the Biological Warfare Convention," he said.
President Clinton announced earlier this month that the missile threat to the United States from countries like North Korea and Iran is growing. Still, the president decided against beginning deployment of a national missile defense that could knock out incoming missiles. He cited developmental problems and opposition from foreign governments as the reason.

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