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Iran fires missiles in second day of war games

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran's Revolutionary Guards tested 14 missiles on Tuesday, the second day of war games intended as a show of strength toward enemies Israel and the United States.

The Iranian-made surface-to-surface missiles, with a maximum range of 2,000 km (1,250 miles), were fired simultaneously at a single target, the official IRNA news agency reported.

Commander Amir Ali Hajizadeh, head of the Revolutionary Guards' aerospace division, emphasised Iran's preparedness to retaliate against Israel and U.S. interests in the event of any attack.

"The range of our missiles has been designed based on American bases in the region as well as the Zionist regime," Hajizadeh told the semi-official Fars news agency.

The United States and Israel have said they do not rule out military strikes on Iran if diplomatic means fail to stop it developing nuclear weapons. Tehran says its nuclear program is geared to producing electricity, not atom bombs.

IRNA said the Guards fired nine Zelzal missiles, two Shahab-1s, two Shahab-2s and one upgraded Shahab-3 missile. Iranian officials have previously announced that the Shahab 3 can reach targets up to 2,000 km (1,242 miles) away, putting Israel and U.S. bases in the Gulf within reach.

In Washington, the U.S. State Department reminded Iran that U.N. Security Council Resolution 1929 bars it from any activity related to ballistic missiles that can carry nuclear weapons, but declined to say if it believed any of those tested were nuclear-capable.

"That there is a U.N. Security Council resolution that precludes them from any activity related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nukes is an important red line for us," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters.

A long-time enemy of the United States, Iran has been emboldened by what it perceives as U.S. military defeats in neighboring Iraq and Afghanistan. Both countries are still home to large U.S. troop numbers and Washington has other bases in the Gulf that Iran could choose to target.

"The Americans have reduced our labors," Hajizadeh told Fars. "Their military bases in the region are in a range of 130, 250 and maximum 700 km in Afghanistan which we can hit with these missiles."


Hossein Salami, deputy commander of the Guards, said: "We still have our fingers on the trigger, but the number of triggers has increased."

The "Great Prophet 6" war games, to be carried out on land and sea, are a "message of peace and friendship to countries of the region," Hajizadeh said on Monday.

Asked whether Iranian missiles were a threat to Europe, Hajizadeh told IRNA that while Iran had the technological capacity to build longer-range missiles, the 2,000-km range had been chosen precisely with Israel and U.S. bases in mind.

"Except America and the Zionist regime, we do not feel a threat from any other country," he said.

Also on Tuesday, Iran's Foreign Ministry summoned the Hungarian ambassador, whose country holds the European Union's rotating presidency, to protest against sanctions slapped by the bloc on three high-ranking Revolutionary Guards officials.

The EU accused the three of supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's suppression of anti-government protests and added their names on Friday to a blacklist that imposes travel restrictions and freezes assets.

The Guards also unveiled new underground ballistic missile silos which they said would reduce launch times as missiles would not need to be moved prior to being launched.

"The silos are a part of the swift reaction unit of the missile brigade, missiles are stored vertically, ready to be launched against pre-determined targets," Fars quoted Hajizadeh as saying.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said Iran's military capability was for purely defensive purposes but the country is happy if its show of strength rattles the West.

"The westerners' concern is a source of delight for us, because we will not allow any country to have a greedy approach toward our country's interests and territorial integrity," Mehmanparast said.

"If all the regional states had the highest defensive capability the Zionist regime would have never allowed itself to carry out an act of aggression."

Mehmanparast also urged Russia to make good on a delivery of S-300 surface-to-air missiles to Iran, saying the system was for "defensive purposes" and Iran expected Russia to take its bilateral commitments "more seriously."

Moscow unilaterally suspended the delivery of S-300s after the United States and Israel expressed concern Iran could use the anti-aircraft missiles to shield its nuclear facilities.

(Additional reporting by Hossein Jaseb and by Arshad Mohammed in Washington; Writing by Ramin Mostafavi; Editing by Peter Graff and Vicki Allen)