Facebook Twitter

Barak says army, peace answer to Iran missiles

SHARE Barak says army, peace answer to Iran missiles

THURMONT, Md. — Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak said Saturday that military might coupled with regional peace agreements were Israel's answer to Iran's test launch of a missile capable of striking the Jewish state.

"The power of the Israeli army and strengthening Israel through peace agreements are the true answer to Shahab 3," Barak, trying to negotiate an Israeli-Palestinian peace accord at secretive Camp David summit talks, said in a statement released by his spokesman.

Iran on Saturday successfully test-fired an upgraded version of its medium-range Shahab missile, which has a range of 1,300 km.

Barak's spokesman declined to comment if Barak had discussed the Iranian test launch with President Clinton or his Middle East team sequestered, along with Palestinian President Yasser Arafat, in the presidential retreat 70 miles from Washington.

In Jerusalem, Israel's Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh said the test launch was an attempt to scupper the Middle East peace process and a threat to his country's defense.

"This is a step forward in the Iranian build-up of power and as a state that Iran says is the devil and must be eradicated from the world, we cannot be apathetic ... we have to go up one, two or even three levels in our defense abilities," Sneh told army radio.

Iran said its test was aimed at ensuring the missile conformed to the latest technological standards. It was first tested in 1998.

An Iranian defense ministry source was quoted by Iran's state media as saying the missile was part of its defense industry and "would in no way threaten other countries."

"They are mainly building this missile in order to equip it with nuclear warheads in the next few years, and Russia helps them in these nuclear projects. Only the United States can influence Russia," NH said.

Israeli defense chiefs have estimated that Iran is only a few years away from gaining nuclear capability. Israel has asked Russia not to cooperate on nuclear projects with its arch-foe.

The Shahab-3 missile, which is based on North Korean technology, has been improved with Russian aid.

Last month the United States criticized an agreement by Moscow to help construct a nuclear power station in Bushehr, Iran, saying Tehran is using the deal to secretly acquire nuclear weapons.

U.S. National Security Council spokesman P.J. Crowley said the test underscored proliferation concerns in the region.

Israel supplied Iran with arms and military knowledge up until the 1979 Islamic revolution, when diplomatic ties were ruptured.