BEIRUT — U.S. officials Wednesday condemned Iran for test-firing a long-range surface-to-surface missile, which they called a violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions and a threat to other countries.
Iranian Defense Minister Mostafa Mohammed Najjar earlier in the day announced the successful launch of a new class of two-stage, solid-fuel rocket called the Sejil.
Iranians say the domestically manufactured weapon is more accurate than its liquid-fueled predecessors and has a range of 1,200 miles, which puts Israel and parts of Europe within striking distance.
The U.S. and some of its allies suspect that Iran is expanding a civilian atomic energy program and improving its missiles to obtain the capacity to make nuclear weapons.
White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said the test-firing reinforced the U.S. argument that Iran could not be trusted to continue enriching uranium, a precursor to developing nuclear weaponry as well as generating civilian electricity.
"Iran should . . . refrain from further missile tests if they truly seek to gain the trust of the world," he said in a statement. "The Iranian regime should stop the development of ballistic missiles, which could be used as a delivery vehicle for a potential nuclear weapon, immediately."
The Security Council has called on Iran to "constrain" its "development of sensitive technologies in support of its nuclear and missile programs" until questions about the Iranian nuclear program have been resolved.
Washington also points to Iran's growing military and technological prowess as an argument for building a controversial missile defense shield in Central Europe. The Bush administration has argued that such a system could shoot down missiles fired from the Middle East, but Russia views it as an attempt to undercut its nuclear deterrent.
"This testing is another reminder of the importance of establishing a missile defense site in Poland and in the Czech Republic to defend the U.S. and Europe against a threat that is developing in Iran," Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman told Agence France-Presse.
Iran says the buildup of its missile arsenal is meant to prevent attacks by the U.S. or Israel on its nuclear installations.
"This missile test was conducted within the framework of a defensive, deterrent strategy," Najjar told reporters, according to the semiofficial Fars News Agency.