Monday, August 23, 2010
Iran unveils drone aircraft to counter "aggressors"
TEHRAN (Reuters) – Iran unveiled a prototype long-range unmanned bomber on Sunday, the latest in a stream of announcements of new Iranian-made military hardware as tension mounts over its nuclear program. On a stage in front of military officials, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad pulled a sheet away from the aircraft, called the Karrar, which Iran says is its first long-range drone. With the United States and Israel saying they do not rule out a military strike to stop Iran getting a nuclear bomb, the Islamic Republic has showed off new mini-submarines, and a surface-to-surface missile and announced plans to launch high-altitude satellites over the next three years. The presentation of the drone came a day after Iranian and Russian technicians began loading fuel into Iran's first nuclear power station, something Israel called "totally unacceptable." In a speech at the unveiling ceremony, Ahmadinejad said Iran should seek the ability to make pre-emptive strikes against a perceived threat, although he said it would never strike first. "If there is an ignorant person or an egoist or a tyrant who just wanted to make an aggression then our Defense Ministry should reach a point where it could cut off the hand of the aggressor before it decided to make an aggression," he said. "We should reach a point when Iran would serve as a defense umbrella for all freedom-loving nations in the face of world aggressors. We don't want to attack anywhere, Iran will never decide to attack anywhere, but our revolution cannot sit idle in the face of tyranny, we can't remain indifferent." State television said the drone had a range of 1,000 km (620 miles) and a speed of 900 km per hour (560 miles per hour), and could be armed with four cruise missiles or a payload of either two 250-pound (113-kg) bombs or one of 500 pounds. It could also be used for reconnaissance and for testing Iran's missile defenses, the station said. Iran, which says its nuclear program is entirely peaceful, has warned that any strike against its nuclear sites would be countered by measures not restricted to the Middle East. Ahmadinejad said on Saturday an attack on Iran would be "suicidal." Iran has said it is prepared to return to talks with major world powers but the exact nature of such negotiations has yet to be defined. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said last week Iran would not talk to the United States unless sanctions and military threats were lifted.