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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 34, February 1999

Iran Announces New, Non-Military Missile

On 7 February, Iran announced that it was on the verge of testing a new missile, the Shahab-4, which it said was to be solely dedicated to non-military purposes. In July, Iran tested the Shahab-3 missile, with a maximum range of 1,300 kilometres (800 miles), which it admitted was intended as part of its armoury (see Disarmament Diplomacy No. 29, p.54). According to Defence Minister Ali Shamkhani, the "Shahab-4 is intended to carry satellites into orbit and it carries no warhead... The Shahab-3 is the last military missile Iran will produce... We have no plans for another war missile." It was not clear from reports what the range of the Shahab-4 is expected to be.

The announcement was made in the wake of the 12 January imposition of sanctions by the United States against three Russian entities for allegedly assisting Iranian proliferation efforts (see last issue). On 20 January, the US move was derided by Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hamid Reza Assefi: "Iran has merely scientific and industrial relations with the Russian companies and institutions which have been subjected to US sanctions. ... Iran has not and will not be interested in acquiring technology for developing nuclear and ballistic missiles from other countries..."

On 11 February, Nikolai Bordyuzha, the head of Russia's Security Council and Presidential Chief of Staff, stressed that Russia took the issue of export and technology controls extremely seriously, and acknowledged that more work needed to be done to put in place a comprehensive system of safeguards, regulations and enforcement: "[T]here are still blank spots in this sphere... A number of firms have been independently going to the international market..." Earlier, on 4 February, US Ambassador to Russia Stephen Sestanovich told reporters in Washington that the scale of the task facing the authorities in Moscow was hard to overestimate: "Russians will tell you - serious analysts, officials - that many of the institutions of the Russian State are so weak that they're not up to the big jobs of solving problems of this kind... [Officials have] acknowledged to us they can't be sure about...the unauthorized flow [of technology] from the institutions and entities of the old military industrial complex..."

Reports: Iran blasts US sanctions on Russia, Associated Press, 20 January; Russian ability to curb ties with Iran doubted, Reuters, 4 February; Iran says missile is for satellites, Associated Press, 7 February; Iran says building missile to launch satellites, Reuters, 8 February; Russia warns on weapons leaks, Associated Press, 11 February.

© 1999 The Acronym Institute.

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