Iran’s Revolutionary Guards start military manoeuvres (Lead)

Tehran, Nov 22 (DPA) Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Sunday began military manoeuvres that are to focus mainly on testing air force capabilities against attacks on nuclear sites, medi reports said.

The latest exercises, being held in central, western, southern and south-western Iran, are to last for five days, according to a statement issued by the Revolutionary Guards and carried by Khabar news network.

Iran’s military manoeuvres have become more frequent since renewed threats by Israel to attack the country’s nuclear installations. These sites are located in the capital Tehran as well as in central and southern Iran.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has often claimed that no country would dare to attack Iran and challenge its military might.

Tehran says its military strength is for deterrence and self-defence only.

But the West fears that Iran could attack its archenemy Israel, especially since its Shahab-3 missiles, which are said to have a range of 2,000 km, could reach any part of Israeli territory.

Tehran has not ruled out using the missiles against Israel, but said it would do so only in the case of Israeli airstrikes against its nuclear sites.

The representative of Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in the Revolutionary Guards repeated earlier warnings against Israel Sunday.

Mojtaba Zolnoor was quoted by state media as saying that if Iran were attacked, the Islamic state would target Israel with its medium-range missiles.

Also the commander of the Revolutionary Guards air force, Amir Ali Hajizadeh, told Fars news agency that the Iranian air defence would “terminate” Israeli F-15 and F-16 fighters or hit them with them with missiles once they dared to infiltrate Iranian airspace.

Defence Minister Ahmad Vahidi meanwhile said Iran plans to design and produce its own air defence missiles.

His comments came after Russia once again delayed delivery of S-300 anti-aircraft missiles to Iran. Relations between Tehran and Moscow are at a delicate phase over the delay, as well as Russia’s latest delay of the completion of a joint nuclear power plant in the southern port of Bushehr.