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Iran missile test follows sanctions talk from West

Iran test-launched its powerful Sajjil-2 missile on Wednesday. The Iranian missile has the range to reach Israel and parts of Europe and a drew a sharp response from the US and and other Western powers, who say it increases their doubts about the Islamic Republic's intentions and hardens their resolve on sanctions.

By Staff writer / December 16, 2009

A long-range, improved Sejil 2 missile is test-fired in the desert at an unknown location in Iran, Wednesday.

Fars News/Reuters

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Istanbul, Turkey

Iran test-fired the latest version of its longest-range missile on Wednesday, sending a message of defiance as pressure mounts on Tehran over its nuclear program.

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The test came a day after the US House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved tougher sanctions legislation against Iran.
Iran state TV showed the green-painted Sajjil-2 missile launching from a desert pad, its exhaust cloud at lift-off swallowing up Iranian flags planted in the ground. The countdown to the launch was completed with three chants of "Alahu Akbar!" or "God is great."

Defense Minister Gen. Ahmad Vahidi said the two-stage missile served as a “strong deterrent” against attack. Speaking on Iranian state TV, he said the missile’s “very high speed” made it “impossible to destroy.” English-language PressTV reported that the missile “hit the defined target” and was part of Iran’s “deterrent strategy [that] serves peace and security and is not a threat to regional stability.”

But a very different message was received in Washington: “At a time when the international community has offered Iran opportunities to begin to build trust and confidence, Iran’s missile tests only undermine claims of peaceful intentions,” said White House spokesman Mike Hammer.

Analysts and politicians took the Iranian launch of the solid-fuel Sajjil-2 missile (sometimes called the "Sejil-2") with a 1,200-mile range – which can reach all of the Middle East and parts of Europe – as the latest twist in the strategic stand-off between Iran and the West, especially over its nuclear ambitions.

“Iran’s modus operandi is to react proactively when being pressured, because they want to show the outside world that pressure is not going to moderate their behavior – in fact it’s going to make it worse,” says Karim Sadjadpour, an Iran expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington DC. "The practical impact is that it further erodes the confidence of Europeans, and increasingly the Russians and Chinese, that the Iranian government is amenable to some type of diplomatic compromise,” he says.

Iran has been accused in the past of timing its missile tests to signal it is digging in its heels over nuclear negotiations.

The Sajjil-2 missile program, which according to Globalsecurity.org has had at least 5 successful test launches since 2008, has been closely monitor by the US.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said the missile test bolstered the argument for more sanctions against Iran: “This is a matter of serious concern to the international community and it does make the case for us moving further on sanctions,” he said in Copenhagen.

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