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US: Iran Missile Test Underscores Threat to Middle East, Europe

The United States says the reported test of a new Iranian ballistic missile underscores that country's threat to the Middle East and Europe, including Russia, which has opposed a planned U.S. regional missile defense system. VOA's David Gollust reports from the State Department that big-power diplomats are expected to discuss Iran's nuclear program and missile activity Thursday in Paris.

The Bush administration says the Iranian missile test violates U.N. resolutions and other international obligations,and will likely be added to the agenda of Thursday's meeting on Iran of the five permanent U.N. Security member countries and Germany, the P-Five-Plus-One.

Iran said it successfully tested a two-stage solid-fuel missile with a 2,000 kilometer range, which if verified would be an advance over the less-versatile liquid-fuel rockets Iran has developed in the past.

The test came on the eve of the Paris meeting of P-Five-Plus-One political directors, who will review efforts to persuade Iran, through incentives, to stop a uranium-enrichment program the United States believes is weapons-related.

The U.S. delegate to the Paris meeting, Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs William Burns, was in Moscow for talks on various issues -including the missile-defense system the United States plans to deploy in central Europe to counter the Iranian threat.

Moscow this week rejected a U.S. proposed set of confidence-building measures, including on-site inspections, designed to allay Russian concerns that the U.S. system would threaten its strategic missile forces.

State Department Deputy Spokesman Robert Wood reiterated Moscow has nothing to fear from the proposed system, and said the Iranian test should illustrate why the deployment should go forward.

"I think it is pretty obvious that when Iran launches one of these ballistic missiles that this is something of concern to the international community, and I am including Russia in the international community here," Wood said. "And so again we think missile defense is in the interest not only of the United States and its European allies, but also Russia. So we will continue to make the case to Russia that we need to cooperate closely on missile defense."

The U.S. plan calls for placement of 10 interceptor missiles in Poland and a related radar system in the Czech Republic.

Russia has threatened to deploy short-range missiles and jamming equipment in its Baltic enclave of Kaliningrad, bordering Poland, if the U.S. program goes forward.

Officials in Moscow were quoted as calling the new U.S. transparency proposals inadequate, while also suggesting the Bush administration is trying to pre-empt missile-defense decisions by President-elect Barack Obama.

An Obama spokesman said this week the incoming president only supports deploying a missile-defense shield when the technology has been proven workable.