Iran, Missiles, Nuclear Efforts: China, Russia on One Side; U.S. Israel On the Other

U.S. Secretary of State Robert Gates says he will continue to work to put UN sanctions on Iran to stop its nuclear program.  China and Russia are resisting, with Russia saying Tuesday that Iran’s has no nuclear weapon capability. 

Israel disagrees and worries over a build-up of President Ahmadinejad’s missiles and nuclear advances….

Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak, seen here in October 2008, ... 
Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak, seen here in October 2008, spoke on Saturday to incoming US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert Gates, asking them to cooperate in facing up to Iran.(AFP/File/Gali Tibbon)

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In  a  sign  that  Iran  is taking military measures to ward off the  threat  of an attack on its nuclear facilities, the country has tripled the  number of long-range rockets in its arsenal, Channel 10 reported on Monday.
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According  to  the  report,  Iran  possessed  30  Shihab-3  missiles at the beginning   of   2008.   Currently,   the   country  claims  to  have  over 100…long-range missiles capable of hitting Israel. While the ability of the Islamic  Republic  to  strike any point in Israel has long been known, this latest  build-up  potentially  points  to  an  Iranian  intent  to launch a protracted  counter-strike  against  those  who seek to destroy its nuclear program….

A missile said to be a Shahab-3 being tested in 2006
The Shahab-3 is Iran’s most advanced and longest-range missile

From the Jerusalem Post
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Hans Blix, the former head of the United Nations nuclear watchdog, said he expects the new US administration to take a fresh approach to the deadlocked international talks on Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

“I hope that the Obama administration in the United States will be more imaginative” on the issue than its predecessors, Blix said after a session of the Luxembourg Forum on Preventing Nuclear Catastrophe. The forum, which includes former top officials and leading academics, focuses on challenges to the global security.

Hans Blix
Hans Blix

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has sent congratulations to Obama, the first time an Iranian leader has offered good wishes to a US president-elect since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Igor Ivanov, a former Russian foreign minister who served as secretary of the presidential Security Council, also said he expects the change of administration in Washington to play a positive role in the Iranian nuclear dispute.

“The new administration coming to power in the United States could breathe a new life into the negotiation process,” Ivanov told reporters.

The US, Britain and many other Western countries accuse Iran of using its nuclear program as a cover for weapons development.

Former US Defense Secretary William Perry said Tuesday that strong cooperation between Moscow and Washington will be essential for settling the dispute over the Iranian nuclear program and other international crises.

Russia-US relations have degraded steadily amid US plans to deploy missile defense sites in Europe and other disputes. They further worsened after Russia’s war with Western-allied Georgia in August.

“With a new administration in the United States coming into office, there is an opportunity to break that downward spiral,” Perry said. “If that can happen, then we can start working together cooperatively on a whole set of problems,” including the Iranian nuclear issue.

Russia has maintained close ties with Iran and is building its first nuclear power plant in the southern Iranian port of Bushehr, which is expected to go on line next year. Russia has backed limited UN sanctions aimed at forcing Iran to suspend its uranium enrichment program, but has staunchly opposed the US push for harsher measures.

Moscow has also sold air-defense missiles and other weapons to Teheran, contracts that have drawn a strong US and Israeli criticism.

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Russian media report Russian officials believe Iran does not currently have the capability to build a nuclear weapon.

The reports quote the director of the Foreign Ministry’s department of European cooperation, Vladimir Voronkov, as saying Iran cannot create or deliver a nuclear weapon.

From the Voice of America
http://www.voanews.com/english/2008-12-09-voa11.cfm

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Robert Gates, making his first visit to China as defense secretary, is expected to press the Chinese to do more to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear capabilities.

Before he left Saturday for the trip, Gates made it clear that he is pursuing a closer alliance with China, and said he doesn’t see the communist giant as a military threat.

Robert Gates

But at the same time, senior defense officials said the Pentagon is still frustrated by China’s failure to be more open about its military ambitions. And Gates will probably push China to better explain its anti-satellite test early this year.

In January, a Chinese missile shattered a defunct Chinese weather satellite, drawing immediate criticism from the U.S. and other countries, who questioned China’s commitment to peaceful development in space. Since then, U.S. officials have struggled to get better answers from the Chinese about it.

The Washington Post & The Associated Press

Read the rest:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/11/0
4/AR2007110400453.html?wprss=rss_business%2Fspecial%2F5

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