- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 29, 2011

LONDON | Iran has conducted covert tests of ballistic missiles in addition to a 10-day program of public military maneuvers, British officials said Wednesday.

Foreign Secretary William Hague told the House of Commons that Iran conducted secret experiments with missiles that would be able to deliver a nuclear weapon, but he did not specify precisely when the tests had taken place.

Iran has “been carrying out covert ballistic-missiles tests and rocket launches, including testing missiles capable of delivering a nuclear payload,” Mr. Hague said.

Britain believes Iran has conducted at least three secret tests of medium-range ballistic missiles since October amid an apparent escalation of its nuclear program and scrutiny from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Iran is displaying its military hardware in a series of war games in an apparent show of openness. On Tuesday, it fired 14 missiles in public tests.

However, Britain believes that the covert missile tests show Iran’s leaders are seeking to avoid scrutiny on 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,” a Foreign Office spokesman said.

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.

Mr. Hague also said Britain is concerned about Iran’s decision to increase its capacity to enrich uranium to a higher level at the Fordo site near the holy city of Qom in central Iran.

“It has announced that it intends to triple its capacity to produce 20 percent enriched uranium. These are enrichment levels far greater that is needed for peaceful nuclear energy,” he said.

Low-level enriched uranium at about 3.5 percent can be used to fuel a reactor to generate electricity, while uranium enriched to about 90 percent purity can be used to develop a nuclear warhead.

Some Western officials say Iran is accelerating its attempts to produce a nuclear weapon, partly because leaders have been shaken by protests against authoritarian regimes across the Middle East.

“We will maintain and continue to increase pressure on Iran to negotiate an agreement on their nuclear program,” Mr. Hague said.

He also condemned Iran for its support of the violent crackdown on anti-regime demonstrations in Syria.

Iran continues to connive in the suppression of legitimate protest in Syria and to suppress protests at home,” he said.

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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