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Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Iran ready to share missile systems with others: TV

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran is ready to share its missile systems with friends and neighbors, the commander of the Revolutionary Guards said, after he showed off missiles including some he said had cluster warheads.

Guards commander-in-chief Yahya Rahim Safavi also told Iran's Arabic-language Al-Alam TV late on Sunday the Guards had thousands of troops trained for suicide missions in case Iran was threatened although he said any U.S. attack was unlikely.

The United States has said it wants to resolve a dispute over Iran's nuclear program by diplomatic means but has not ruled out the use of force. Washington believes Tehran is seeking to make atomic bombs, despite Iranian denials.

"We are able to give our missile systems to friendly and neighboring countries," Safavi told Al-Alam. A text of his comments in Farsi were obtained by Reuters on Monday.

"Under the current circumstances, Americans are involved in Afghanistan and the quagmire of Iraq so we do not anticipate any military attack from America," he said.

"But Iran has its own defense and deterrent power and it is very unlikely that America will cause us any problems. They know that Iran has missiles with the range of 2000 km (1,250 miles) which will put their interests in danger," he added.

On Thursday, at the start of 10 days of military exercises, the Revolutionary Guards said they fired Shahab missiles with cluster warheads. Experts say the Shahab 3 has a maximum range of 2,000 km, able to hit Israel and U.S. bases in the Gulf.

Military experts said the exercises, which included firing more missiles on Friday, were to show off Iranian technology. Washington dismissed the maneuvers as "saber-rattling".

"We have weapons which are unknown to others. We have military weapons which we have not shown off, but we will do in the next maneuvers," Safavi said, without giving details.

Iran frequently reports tests of new weapons systems, but experts say it rarely gives enough detail to make clear if any significant advances have been made.

"The Revolutionary Guards does not only depend on its technological might because it has thousands of martyrdom seekers and they are ready for martyrdom-seeking operations on a large scale," Safavi said.

"They are professionals, they receive training and have the spirit."

An organization has previously said Iranians have signed up for suicide raids in case Iran was attacked, but officials have in the past said the group was independent of the government and not part of the Guards, the ideological wing of Iran's military.

No Iranians are thought to have directly executed suicide bombings in recent years. But the United States accuses Iran of being a state sponsor of terrorism, a charge Tehran denies.

Experts say Iran's technology may not match that possessed by U.S. and other Western forces operating in the region but they say Iran could still cause havoc in the strategic Gulf waterway, particularly with guerrilla-style tactics.

While Iran boasts home-grown weapons systems, experts say most are modifications of weapons from other countries, including North Korea.
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