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Russia: Iran's Current Missile Range Too Short for Threat

The United States and Russia continue sparring over a Central European missile defense system, as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says America is committed to protecting its allies from a possible Iranian missile attack, and her Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, claiming Tehran's missiles do not have sufficient range to justify the controversial system. VOA Correspondent Peter Fedynsky has this report from the Russian capital.

Asked at a Moscow news conference about this week's Iranian missile tests, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said negotiations were the only way to resolve the dispute over Tehran's potential missile threat. Lavrov again rejected a U.S. proposal to deploy a missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic to guard against a possible Iranian offensive.

The Russian foreign minister says the tests showed that Iran has missiles with a 2,000 kilometer range, confirming what Russia said earlier, that the idea to deploy a Central European missile system is not needed to monitor and react to these particular missiles.

Lavrov spoke at a news conference in Moscow with his visiting Jordanian counterpart, Salaheddin Bashir. The Kremlin considers the Central European system a threat to Russian security.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice signed a deal Tuesday in Prague to build a radar monitoring station in the Czech Republic as part of the system opposed by Moscow. Speaking in Tbilisi, Georgia Thursday, Secretary Rice said the United States would defend its allies.

"We take very, very strongly our obligation to help our allies defend themselves, and no one should be confused about that," she said. "We also are able to look to the future of a missile defense system that will make it more difficult for Iran to threaten and be bellicose and say terrible things, because their missiles won't work."

Iran reported the test firing of several missile types Wednesday and Thursday, including its single-stage Shahab-3 missile. The weapon's purported 2,000 kilometer range could reach Israel and other U.S. allies in the Middle East and South Asia.

Independent Russian military analyst Pavel Felgenhauer told VOA that Iran could develop two-stage missile technology in five to ten years, increasing Tehran's range by thousands of kilometers and allowing it to hit targets in Western Europe. Felgenhauer says dozens of countries besides Russia and the United States have it, including Israel, India, and Japan.

The analyst says two-stage technology is 50 years old. Iran would need to solve certain technical problems, but others have done it and the information is available. He adds that two-stage rockets also allow payloads to be launched into low earth orbit, and that Iran is clearly capable of solving the problem.

The United States suspects Tehran of seeking to develop a nuclear weapon under cover of a civilian nuclear energy program. Moscow has helped Iran build its nuclear reactor at Bushehr and has been supplying the facility with nuclear fuel.