Iran to hold war games in Gulf - TV

Updated: 2006-11-01 22:43

TEHRAN - Iran's Revolutionary Guards will start 10 days of war games on Thursday that will include drills in the Gulf and Sea of Oman, Iranian state television reported on Wednesday, days after U.S.-led naval exercises in the area.

Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad waves to his supporters before speaking in the city of Shahriar, 16 miles south west of Tehran, October 11, 2006. [Reuters]

The United States-led naval manoeuvres involving 25 nations in the Gulf on Monday aimed at training the forces to block the transport of weapons of mass destruction and related equipment, officials said.

Iran is embroiled in a nuclear standoff with the West, which accuses Tehran of seeking to develop nuclear weapons. Iran insists its atomic work is aimed at making electricity.

Yahya Rahim Safavi, commander-in-chief of the Revolutionary Guards, said ground, air and naval forces, including submarines, would stage exercises called "The Greatest Prophet" from Thursday until November 11, state television reported.

He said the manoeuvres would be "mainly in the Persian Gulf and Sea of Oman", adding that members of the volunteer Basij militia, who see themselves as the guardians of revolutionary values, would also take part in the wargames.

Safavi said the elite Guards units would show off a wide range of Iranian-made hardware, including missiles and rockets with various ranges.

"Our air force (will participate) by firing dozens of missiles including Shahab-2 and Shahab-3 missiles with cluster warheads," Safavi said without elaborating.

Military experts say Iran's Shahab-3 missiles have a maximum range of some 2,000 km (1,240 miles), making them capable of hitting Israel as well as U.S. military bases in the Gulf.

U.S. officials accuse Iran of planning to equip its missiles with nuclear warheads. Iran denies the charge.

The Revolutionary Guards, the ideologically driven wing of the armed forces which has a separate command structure from the regular military, held wargames in the Gulf in April in which they tested new missiles, torpedoes and other equipment.

Analysts interpreted those wargames as a thinly veiled threat that Iran could disrupt vital oil shipping lanes if pushed by an escalation in the nuclear dispute.

Safavi said the latest wargames would be a show of "defensive strength" and were not aimed at threatening any country in the region.

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