The Islamic Republic's growing missile range, which now stretches to parts of southeastern Europe, comes at a time ... Reuters
TEHRAN - Iran said on Wednesday it would keep improving its missile capability after announcing that the latest version of its medium-range Shahab-3 could now hit targets up to 2,000 km (1,250 miles) away.
The Islamic Republic's growing missile range, which now stretches to parts of southeastern Europe, comes at a time of heightened international attention on Tehran's nuclear programme which Washington says is a covert bid for atomic bombs.
Iran says its nuclear facilities would only be used for peaceful purposes and that its ballistic arsenal is purely defensive.
Iranian officials have frequently boasted in recent weeks that they can strike anywhere in Israel or at U.S. bases in the Gulf should either country attack Iran's nuclear facilities.
But analysts say Iran's bid to boost the range of its missiles beyond the immediate region does not mean Tehran has European capitals or eventually the United States in its sights.
Influential former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani announced on Tuesday that Iran's missiles now had a range of 2,000 km, up from previous estimates for the Shahab-3's range of around 1,300 km.
"We will keep on upgrading our missiles ... and that of course includes the Shahab-3," Nasser Maleki, deputy head of Iran's Aerospace Organisation, was quoted as saying by the ISNA students' news agency.
Maleki said the missile Rafsanjani spoke of was an improved version of the Shahab-3 which the Defence Ministry said in August had been successfully tested.
Based on the North Korean Nodong-1 and modified with Russian technology, the Shahab-3 was first deployed to Iran's Revolutionary Guards in July 2003.
Israel has long accused Iran of working on a long-range missile, the Shahab-4, which would be able to reach Europe. Iran denies any plans to build a Shahab-4 missile.
"In the Shahab project we have just achieved Shahab-3," Maleki said.
Tehran says its missiles are for defensive purposes and would be used to counter a possible Israeli or U.S. strike against its nuclear facilities.