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Israel Expresses Concern Over Iran Missile Test


Israeli officials are expressing concern over Iran's test firing of nine missiles on Wednesday. VOA's Jim Teeple has details from our Jerusalem bureau.

Mark Regev, a spokesman for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, issued a statement saying "Israel has no desire for conflict with Iran, but the Iranian nuclear program and the Iranian ballistic missile program must be of grave concern to the entire international community."

Iranian revolutionary guards who conducted the missile test say at least one of the nine missiles fired was a Shahab 3 with a 2,000-kilometer range capable of striking Israel. Meir Javedanfar, a leading Iran analyst in Israel, says Israeli officials are concerned.

"I think they are viewing this with much concern," he said. "It shows Iran has the capability to reach Israel. But for now the Israeli priority is for the negotiations to succeed so the lower the Israeli government can keep the volume when it comes to the Iranian military capability the more it allows people like European Union negotiator Javier Solana to be able to negotiate with Iran and hopefully come to a peaceful conclusion."

The missile tests come amid continuing tensions in the region over Iran's refusal to abandon its nuclear program. Iranian officials say their nuclear program is strictly for generating electricity, but the U.N. Security Council has demanded that Iran suspend its uranium enrichment activities.

European Union negotiator Javier Solana has submitted a package of incentives that would include assistance to help Iran develop a civilian nuclear program if Iran does suspend its enrichment activities. Iranian officials said several days ago they are prepared to hold talks with Mr. Solana and his so called five-plus-one group to resolve the crisis.

Israeli officials insist that Iran is developing nuclear weapons and that pronouncements by Iranian leaders to wipe Israel off the map mean that Iran's nuclear enrichment activities are a threat to Israel's existence. Meir Javendanfar says Israeli officials are closely watching recent diplomatic efforts to end the crisis, because they seem to be having an effect inside Iran.

"I think the recent package from the EU, the five-plus-one, has actually created a lot of discussion within Iran regarding what to do, regarding President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's belligerent approach to the international community," he said. "So, what I think Israel wants to do is for the EU and the United Nations to become more involved with Iran, and meanwhile Israel can act as the international community's conscience when it comes to the Iranian danger."

Iran has threatened that any military action aimed at its nuclear enrichment program would lead to Iranian attacks against Israel, U.S. forces in the region, and the shut down of the Straits of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf, through which much of the world's oil supply passes.

Israel recently conducted large scale military exercises over the Mediterranean which were described by U.S. officials as a warning to Iran. Following a recent trip to Israel, the U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chief's of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen said any attack on Iran would be stressful for U.S. forces in the region.

At the same time Admiral Mullen said he was aware of what he said were very real threats to Israel from Iran. For his part, Iranian President Ahmadinejad said Tuesday any talk of war in the future was "a funny joke."