April 3, 2006 in Nation/World

Iran reports test-fire of high-speed torpedo

Ali Akbar Dareini Associated Press

Rice: U.S. seeks diplomatic solution

» LONDON – Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said in an interview broadcast Sunday that the United States is committed to pursuing a diplomatic solution to the Iranian nuclear crisis.

» In an interview with the ITV television channel recorded in Liverpool on Saturday, Rice acknowledged concerns that the standoff between the U.N. Security Council and Iran over its nuclear program could lead to the U.S. taking pre-emptive military action.

» But, she said, “Iran is not Iraq. I know that’s what’s on people’s minds. The circumstances are different,” Rice said.

» “However,” Rice added, “the president of the United States doesn’t take his options off the table. We are committed to a diplomatic course because we believe that a diplomatic course can work,” she said.

» The Sunday Telegraph newspaper reported that Britain’s government and military chiefs plan to hold secret talks today to discuss contingency plans about possible military strikes against Iran.

» The paper quoted an unidentified senior Foreign Office official as saying the military wants such talks because the crisis could lead to a pre-emptive military strike against Iran’s nuclear sites – though not an invasion.

» Asked about the report, Britain’s Defence Ministry said in a statement: “There is no such meeting between defense, the Foreign Office and other officials taking place. There will be no briefing of the prime minister or the Cabinet in this regard.”

– Associated Press

TEHRAN, Iran – Iran conducted its second major test of a new missile within days on Sunday, firing a high-speed torpedo it said no submarine or warship can escape at a time of increased tensions with the U.S. over its nuclear program.

The tests came during war games that Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards have been holding in the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Sea since Friday.

On the maneuvers’ first day, Iran said it successfully tested the Fajr-3 missile, which can avoid radar and hit several targets simultaneously using multiple warheads.

The new torpedo, called the “Hoot,” or “whale,” could raise concerns over Iran’s power in the Gulf, a vital corridor for the world’s oil supplies and where the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet is based. During Iran’s war with Iraq in the 1980s, Iranian ships attacked oil tankers in the Gulf, and Iran and the U.S. military engaged in limited clashes.

Iran’s state television stopped its normal programs to break news of the torpedo test, showing it being launched from a ship into the Gulf waters, then hitting its target, a derelict ship.

Gen. Ali Fadavi, deputy head of the Revolutionary Guards’ navy, said the ships that fire the Iranian-made Hoot had radar-evading technology and that the torpedo – moving at 223 mph – was too fast to elude.

“It has a very powerful warhead designed to hit big submarines. Even if enemy warship sensors identify the missile, no warship can escape from this missile because of its high speed,” Fadavi told state television.

The Hoot’s speed would make it about three or four times faster than a normal torpedo and as fast as the world’s fastest-known underwater missile, the Russian-made VA-111 Shkval. It was not immediately known if the Hoot was based on the Shkval.

The new weapon gives Iran “superiority” against any warship in the region, Fadavi said, in a veiled reference to U.S. vessels in the Gulf. It was not immediately clear whether the torpedo can carry a nuclear warhead.

Cmdr. Jeff Breslau, spokesman for the U.S. 5th Fleet based on the tiny Arab island nation of Bahrain in the Gulf, said no special measures were taken in reaction to the Iranian war games, even after the latest missile test.

He would not comment on whether the new torpedo represents a threat to American forces in the region.

Iran is now trying to show its strength amid worries of U.S. military action over its nuclear program, which Washington says aims to produce nuclear weapons. Iran denies the accusation, saying it intends only to generate electricity.

© Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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