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IRAN: Tehran's unveiling of new air defense system seen as a warning to the West

April 11, 2010 |  9:57 am

Iran rocket
Iran unveiled a new "homemade" missile defense system on Sunday that its defense minister claims is capable of destroying "advanced airplanes flying at low and medium altitudes" in a show of force that can easily be read as a warning to Western powers seeking to pressure Iran over its nuclear program.

The Mersad air defense system was debuted days after President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced technological advances in nuclear fuel production that could, if implemented, greatly advance Iran's nuclear ambitions.

"The main components of this new system are detection radars, software and hardware networks, launching pads and control centers," Defense Minister Brig. Gen. Ahmad Vahidi told state television. "We owe this digitally designed system to our experiences of eight-year war with Iraq."

He added that the system was also capable of "resisting electronic warfare" and that it would be handed over to Iranian armed forces by the end of this year.

According to some media reports, the system was tested Friday using a Shahin medium-range rocket. Previewing the system is being widely interpreted as a warning to Israel and the United States that Iran is prepared to defend itself against a possible Israeli air attack on its nuclear facilities should the new round of U.S.-led sanctions fail to pass or prove ineffective.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, speaking to top military brass on Sunday, attacked President Obama over the U.S. leader's recently unveiled nuclear strategy, which did not rule out a nuclear attack on Iran.

"In recent years, the Americans did their best to make the world believe that the Islamic Republic of Iran has not come clean about its nuclear programs," Khamenei said. "Now, it is clear that the nuclear-armed governments and those who disgracefully threaten to use atomic bomb against others are unreliable. The U.S. president's remarks are scandalous."

But according to an ABC News interview with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, the Obama administration doesn't appear to be panicking over Iran's military capabilities, nuclear or otherwise.

"When it comes to Iran, we take everything they say with more than a grain of salt because we know that they have a -- a tendency to say things that may or may not be carried out, may or may not be accurate," Clinton told ABC's White House correspondent Jake Tapper Sunday. "But in fact their belligerence is helping to make our case every single day."

-- Meris Lutz in Beirut

Photo: Iran's attempts to beef up its missile defense system have been seen as a warning to Israel and the West. Credit: Agence France-Presse

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