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Pakistan test-fires nuclear-capable missile

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Pakistan said Tuesday that it has successfully test-fired a medium-range, nuclear-capable missile that could hit many cities in neighboring India, but defense officials said it was not intended as a message to the rival country.

India was informed beforehand about the test of the Ghauri V missile, which has a range of 930 miles. The launch, at an undisclosed location, was witnessed by Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, an army statement said.

A senior defense official said on condition of anonymity that Pakistan was not sending "any wrong signal to India" by test-firing the missile at a time when the two nations are pursuing peace talks.

India expressed little reaction. External Affairs Ministry spokesman Navtej Sarna said, "We were informed as per normal practice."

Despite the peace process begun early this year, both countries routinely conduct missile tests. Pakistan also test-fired the Ghauri missile on May 29 and June 4.

President Gen. Pervez Musharraf and Aziz said Tuesday in a statement that "the nation is proud of our scientists and holds them in the highest esteem for making the national defense impregnable."

The Ghauri missile is produced by Pakistan's main weapons facility, Khan Research Laboratories — named after Abdul Qadeer Khan, the disgraced chief scientist behind Pakistan's nuclear program.

Early this year, Khan disclosed that he had sold nuclear technology to Iran, Libya and North Korea without government approval. Musharraf pardoned him.

According to the Federation of American Scientists, the Ghauri missile is a copy of North Korea's Nodong missile — but Pakistan says it developed the missile itself. Khan's group delivered the missile to the army in 2003.

The missile is named after Muslim ruler Shahbuddin Ghauri, feted in Pakistan for capturing western parts of India in the 12th century.

Pakistan became a declared nuclear power on May 28, 1998, when it conducted underground nuclear tests, following tests carried out by India.

The two nations have a history of bitter relations and have fought three wars since independence from Britain in 1947. But after coming to the brink of a fourth conflict in 2001, relations have thawed.