MOSCOW, February 6 (RIA Novosti) - Russia is concerned over Iran's attempts to develop a long-range ballistic missile following the recent launch of a research rocket into space, a senior Russian diplomat said on Wednesday.
"Any progress in the development of this [long-range ballistic missile] weaponry, certainly worries us and others," said Alexander Losyukov, a Russian deputy foreign minister.
Tehran successfully tested on Monday the Explorer-1 research rocket, which is reportedly capable of carrying a satellite into orbit.
Iranian media gave no details about the rocket, but some experts believe it could be an advanced variant of the Shahab-3 ballistic missile, which has a range of up to 2,000 kilometers (about 1,200 miles).
Losyukov said the test demonstrated the advances the Islamic Republic had made in ballistic missile technology that "raise suspicion towards Iran about its possible desire to create a nuclear weapon."
Long-range ballistic missiles are generally designed to deliver nuclear weapons because their payload is too limited for conventional explosives to be efficient. They have a range of 2,500-5,000 kilometers (1,600-3,100 miles).
"Long-range missiles are one of the components of such a [nuclear] weapons system. Naturally, this raises concern," he said.
Iran is currently involved in a long-running dispute with the West over its controversial uranium enrichment program, with two sets of UN sanctions against Tehran in effect.
The White House issued a statement on Monday calling the Iranian launch an "unfortunate" development.
"It's unfortunate Iran continues to test ballistic missiles. This regime continues to take steps that only further isolate it and the Iranian people from the international community," White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said.
However, the Iranian government has consistently claimed that the country's achievements in ballistic technology and nuclear research pose no threat to global peace and stability.
Add to blog
You may place this material on your blog by copying the link.
Iran has been a central Russian ally in the Middle East, despite considerable tensions between the two. But by renewing dialogue with the West, the new Iranian leadership has chosen another direction. The shifting terrain in the region creates new strategic, political and economic challenges for Russia.