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Iran Announces Missile Test After Nuclear Development

Source: VOA

Iran says it has successfully tested a cruise missile, a day after announcing another missile test and a new development in its nuclear program. State media reported the ground-to-sea cruise missile test Monday, the last day of Naval exercises. Iran says the war games also included test-firing a medium-range surface-to-air missile Sunday near the strategic Strait of Hormuz.

In this image made available by the Iranian Students News Agency, an Iranian navy vessel launches a missile during a drill at the sea of Oman, January 1, 2012. (see more photos)

Iran also said Sunday it successfully tested and produced fuel rods for use in nuclear power plants.

Iranian television said the fuel rods, which contain natural uranium, were made in Iran and inserted into the core of a research nuclear reactor in Tehran.

Middle East analyst Stephen Zunes of San Francisco University in California told VOA that the step does not present a major security threat, and that Iran still has a long way to go in developing a nuclear weapon.

"Whether or not it's true, it's not that critical from a security perspective, because we're talking about the concentration of uranium that is far below what is necessary for nuclear weapons. If true, it does shows that their program is advancing, but it's been slowly advancing for years," Zunes stated. "And they're still probably at least several years away from actually being able to create a nuclear weapon."

Both the United States and the European Union contend that Iran is secretly trying to develop nuclear weapons. Iran says its nuclear intentions are peaceful.

State media also boasted that the missile tested Sunday was equipped with technology enabling it to pinpoint radar-evading targets.

Zunes said that type of missile is a defensive weapon that could be used against attacking planes, and that the test is a warning against preemptive strikes by other nations. But he says Iran's military progress does not necessarily mean it is more willing to carry out its own attack. "The deterrent capability of the United States and Israel is massive and it would be suicidal to launch anything. So an increased capability does not necessarily mean an increased risk of war," he said.

Iranian officials Sunday also dismissed Washington's move to impose new sanctions on financial institutions that deal with Iran's central bank. U.S. President Barack Obama signed the sanctions into law Saturday as part of a push to hamper Tehran's ability to finance its nuclear enrichment program.

Iran has threatened to respond to possible wider sanctions on its oil exports by closing the Strait of Hormuz, a vital export route for the other oil-producing countries of the Persian Gulf. The U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet, based in Bahrain, says it will not allow disruptions to Gulf shipping.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.

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