(AFP) – Jul 11, 2008
UNITED NATIONS (AFP) — UN chief Ban Ki-moon issued a fresh appeal for Iran to suspend nuclear enrichment work as Washington warned Tehran to cease its "provocative" missile tests.
"I have been calling on Iranian authorities to fully comply with all relevant Security Council resolutions and continue their negotiations with European Union and concerned parties," Ban said Thursday on his return from a two-week, three-nation Asian tour.
Ban's call came after Tehran tested over two days several missiles, including the Shahab-3 said to be capable of striking Israel.
While challenging Tehran's reports on the extent of tests, Washington called them provocative and said they violated UN Security Council resolutions.
"We want to see them stop enriching uranium and we'd like to see them stop these provocative tests that only further isolate the Iranian people," White House spokesman Tony Fratto said.
In war games Wednesday and Thursday, the naval section of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards test-fired shore-to-sea, surface-to-surface and sea-to-air missiles in the Gulf, state television said.
Tehran said nine missiles in total were fired on Wednesday, including the Shahab-3 long-range missile, advertised as having a 2,000 kilometer range (1,250 miles), which would put Israel, Saudi Arabia, and US military installations throughout the Middle East within striking distance.
Iranian media also said a round of missiles were tested on Thursday, but did not give specifics.
US and other experts challenged the report of how many missiles were launched in the test, while blasting Tehran's actions.
A senior US defense official told AFP that Iran appeared to have fired only a single missile on Thursday and that only seven were launched on Wednesday, not nine as claimed.
Iran's latest war games come amid increased diplomatic efforts to end the five-year standoff over its nuclear drive.
Iran has rejected Western accusations that its nuclear enrichment program is aimed at creating nuclear weapons, and insists on its right to continue enrichment operations.
The tests added to tensions over the standoff
After an aide to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned that Iran would "set fire" to Israel and US ships in the Gulf if attacked, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice warned that the United States would defend itself.
"We will defend American interests and the interests of our allies. We take very strongly our obligation to defend our allies and we intend to do that," she told reporters in Tbilisi.
On Friday Iran said its top nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili and EU foreign policy chief Javier Salona would hold talks on ending the atomic standoff on July 19 in Geneva, the official IRNA news agency reported.
"They are to continue their negotiations about the package on Saturday, July 19," IRNA quoted Ahmad Khadem al-Melleh, spokesman for the secretariat of Iran's supreme national security council, as saying.
But a spokeswoman for Solana refused to confirm the reports that he would visit the Iranian capital.
Tehran recently responded to an offer of incentives to halt its nuclear program from world powers -- Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States -- and diplomats are analyzing what is said to be a complex answer.
According to the French foreign ministry, Iran's response did not commit to suspending uranium enrichment for the proposed talks, despite the insistence of the six powers.
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