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US Condemns Latest Iranian Missile Test


U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has condemned Iran for testing a missile that could hit Israel, saying it violates the country's U.N. Security Council obligations. Stefan Bos reports for VOA that Rice made the comments in Bulgaria where she was honored for helping secure the release of six medics who were detained in Libya.

Speaking in the Bulgarian capital, Sofia, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice condemned Iran's latest missile test.

Arabic news reports said the Shahab-3 missile, which could reach Israel, was among nine fired from an undisclosed location in the Iranian desert.

Iranian television reported air force commander General Hossein Salami said the missile launch was part of an exercise that would "demonstrate our resolve and might against enemies who in recent weeks have threatened Iran with harsh language."

The test followed Rice signing an agreement Tuesday in the Czech Republic on a radar station that will be part of a defense system Washington says it wants to build to counter missiles from countries such as Iran.

Rice said after the signing ceremony that while President George W. Bush is in the waning days of his presidency, she expects any future president to continue the missile-defense program.

"We face with the Iranians, and so do our allies and friends, a growing missile threat that is getting ever longer and ever deeper - and where the Iranian appetite for nuclear technology is, to this point, still unchecked," she said. "And it is hard for me to believe that an American president is not going to want to have the capability to defend our territory and the territory of our allies, whether they are in Europe or whether they are in the Middle East against that kind of missile threat."

Rice told reporters in Sofia the latest Iranian missile test shows that action has to be taken as the threat posed by the Islamic republic is not "imaginary." She said in a statement the Iranians should "stop violating their U.N. Security Council obligations and start fulfilling them."

Following the tests, Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev said "Israel does not threaten Iran, but the Iranian nuclear program, combined with their aggressive ballistic missile program, is a matter of grave concern."

Secretary of State Rice spoke in Bulgaria where she received that country's highest honor for her help in securing Libya's release of five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor last year.

They were detained in 1999, and twice sentenced to death for allegedly infecting children with AIDS, despite testimonies from experts that the children, 50 of whom died, were infected by unhygienic conditions at the hospital.

While Rice played less of a public role than several other international figures in winning their release, Libya eventually agreed to free them, in part, to improve its relationship with the United States.

Bulgaria, a former Warsaw Pact country that joined NATO in 2004, has also supported the U.S.-led military campaign in Iraq by sending troops to the multi-national coalition forces.

In addition it signed a 10-year deal allowing American troops to be deployed in Bulgarian military facilities. The agreement is part of a NATO strategy to shift forces further east to small, flexible bases closer to potential hotspots in the Middle East.


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