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Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Iran's Guards launch Gulf war games: state media

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran's Revolutionary Guards launched two days of war games on Wednesday in the Gulf and Sea of Oman, state media reported.

State television said the exercises by the air and naval units of the Guards were "to raise ... combat preparedness".

The United States and Iran are at loggerheads over Tehran's nuclear program, which Washington says is aimed at building atomic bombs, and over Iraq, where U.S. officials say Iran is backing militants. Tehran denies both charges.

Washington has ordered a second aircraft carrier to the Gulf, a move regarded as a warning to Iran.
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"Missile interception and test firing will be included in the war games," state television said, showing footage of divers jumping out helicopters and a warship at sea.

When asked by a state radio reporter about what hardware had been tried out, the Guards' air force commander Hossein Salami suggested tests included equipment related to the Russian-made TOR-M1 anti-aircraft missile system.

It did not appear to involve firing those missiles.

Last month, Russia said it had completed delivery of the TOR-M1 system to Iran. Washington said the sale undermined regional security. Moscow says the missiles are only short-range and purely defensive.

Military experts say Iranian forces are no technological match for the U.S. military but could still cause havoc in the Gulf and the narrow Strait of Hormuz, a choke point through which two fifths of the world's traded oil passes.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates said last week that Washington was not planning for war with Iran.

The Revolutionary Guards is an ideological wing of the Islamic Republic's armed forces and has a separate command structure to the regular military.
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