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Iran buying, developing missile defence system: official
TEHRAN (AFP) - Iran, under pressure over its disputed nuclear programme, has been developing a missile defence system and has bought such technology from Russia, the Islamic republic's top national security official told AFP.
"Is this a problem? Do we need permission?" said Ali Larijani, when asked to confirm reports that his country has bought 29 mobile air defence systems from Moscow in a contract worth more than 700 million dollars (600 million euros).
"We have contracts with other countries to buy or sell arms. This is not the first time we have signed a contract with the Russians. We have done so in the past with Russia and other countries like China," said Larijani, secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council.
"This is not the first time we have bought an anti-missile system. We also make them ourselves."
Russia's state news agency ITAR-TASS on Friday quoted an unnamed top Russian defence ministry official as saying the deal involved 29 Tor M-1 mobile systems capable of bringing down both aircraft and missiles.
The United States has said it is unhappy with the deal -- which comes amid unease in the West over Russia's role in helping Tehran develop nuclear energy.
Larijani said with a smile that Iran's air defences "do not have many weaknesses", but went on to dismiss fears that his country was also seeking to equip itself with long-range ballistic missiles.
"We always announce the range of missiles we test. There is nothing secret," he said.
Iran has been constantly upgrading the Shahab-3 missile, a single-stage device that is believed to be based on a North Korean design and have a range of at least 2,000 kilometres (1,280 miles) -- meaning that arch-enemy Israel and US bases in the region are well within range.
In Farsi, Shahab means "meteor" or "shooting star".
Iran said it achieved a major breakthrough in May when it successfully tested a new solid fuel motor for the Shahab-3, which would make the missiles more mobile, more accurate and cheaper -- and pave the wave for potentially longer-range, dual-stage devices.
But Larijani asserted that "long-range missiles do not only have a military use, because to launch satellites you need long-range missiles."
Tehran's rapid progress on its ballistic missile programme is a major cause for concern in the international community.