- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 12, 2008

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) – Iran has successfully test-fired a new generation of surface-to-surface missile that uses solid fuel, making it more accurate than its predecessors, the defense minister announced Wednesday.

Mostafa Mohammed Najjar said on state television that the Sajjil was a high-speed missile manufactured at the Iranian Aerospace department of the Defense Ministry.

He said it had a range of about 1,200 miles, which could easily reach arch-foe Israel and even travel as far as southeastern Europe.

Solid fuel missiles are more accurate than the liquid fuel missiles of similar range currently possessed by Iran.

The official IRNA news agency said the test was conducted Wednesday and television showed the missile being fired from a launching pad in a desert region.

“This missile is a two-stage weapon with two combined solid-fuel engines and has an extraordinary high capability,” the television quote Najjar as saying. He didn’t elaborate.

Najjar said the missile was a defensive weapon and not a response to threats against Iran. He didn’t name any country but Israel has recently threatened to take military action against Iran to stop Tehran from developing a nuclear bomb.

“This missile test was conducted within the framework of a defensive, deterrent strategy … and specifically with defensive objectives,” Najjar added.

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 Mecca by pelting them with stones of baked clay.

In a speech coinciding with the missile launch, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad warned that Tehran will crush any power showing audacity or impudence toward Iran.

“The Iranian nation defends its dignity. Should any power stand against the Iranian nation, the Iranian people will crush it under its foot and will strike it on the mouth,” he said in a speech broadcast live on state TV.

Iran is known to possess a medium-range ballistic missile known as the Shahab-3, which means “shooting star” in Farsi, with a range of at least 800 miles. In 2005, Iranian officials said they had improved the range of the Shahab-3 to 1,200 miles.

The Shahab-3 missile, which is capable of carrying a nuclear warhead, can reach Israel and U.S. forces in the Middle East.

Iran’s Shahab-3 missile has been known to use liquid fuel. Missiles using liquid fuel are less accurate. The latest version of the missile uses a combination of liquid and solid fuel.

In September 2007 during a military parade, Iran unveiled another missile, the Ghadr, which it said has a range of 1,120 miles (1,800 kilometers).

Iran launched an arms development program during its 1980-88 war with Iraq to compensate for a U.S. weapons embargo. Since 1992, Iran has produced its own tanks, armored personnel carriers, missiles and a fighter plane.

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