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Iran Tests New Generation Missile

Iran says it has test fired a new generation missile with a range that would put Israel and southern Europe in its sights.

Iranian state media quote Defense Minister Mostafa Mohammad Najjar Wednesday as saying the new surface-to-surface Sejil missile is a two-stage rocket that uses combined solid fuel. Such a missile would be more accurate and easier to use than such liquid fuel rockets as Iran's Shahab-3.

In the past, Western military experts have expressed caution that Iran overstates its weapons' capabilities.

Shortly after the announcement, the U.S. State Department condemned the test as a violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions and not in accordance with Iran's international obligations.

Defense Minister Najjar said the Sejil has a range of 2,000 kilometers, but added that the weapon was only designed for defensive purposes.

Israel recently repeated that it would not rule out the possibility of a preemptive strike against Iranian nuclear facilities and urged other nations keep all options open.

Western nations are concerned Iran may be seeking nuclear weapons. Tehran says its nuclear program is purely for peaceful purposes.

Representatives of the six world powers that have been pressing Iran to suspend part of its nuclear program will meet in Paris Thursday. Officials from the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China have followed a dual strategy of offering Iran incentives to stop enriching uranium, and imposing sanctions if it refuses.

U.S. State Department spokesman Robert Wood said today he would not be surprised if the test firing of the Sejil missile came up during the Paris meeting.

The U.S. official added that the test also underlined the importance of a missile defense shield in Europe, an issue that has put Washington at odds with Moscow. Wood said the Iranian test should cause Russia concern.