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Iran Says It Has Started Production Of Two New Missiles

Iranian Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi
TEHRAN (Reuters) -- Iran officially started production of two new missiles today, state radio said.

Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi inaugurated production lines for the "Qaem" antihelicopter missile and for the "Toofan-5" antiarmor missile, it reported.

Iran is embroiled in a dispute with the West over its nuclear program and often makes announcements of progress in its military capabilities.

"Upon the mass production and the delivery of these modern weapons to the armed forces, the country's defence capability would improve in land and air warfare," the semi-official Fars News Agency quoted Vahidi as saying.

State radio said "Toofan-5" carried two warheads and was able to destroy armoured personnel carriers and tanks. It did not say where the production was located.

Vahidi described "Qaem" as a light-weight, guided missile "that is able to destroy low-altitude air targets, particularly armored combat helicopters," Fars reported.

"The laser-guided 'Qaem' missiles are resistant to the enemy's electronic warfare," he added.

The announcement of new missile production coincided with a 10-day period marking the 31st anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution that toppled the U.S.-backed shah.

It came three days after Iran said it test-launched a rocket capable of carrying a satellite, a move Washington described as a "provocative act." In December, Iran said it test-fired a long-range, upgraded "Sejil 2" missile.

Israel and the United States, the Islamic republic's arch-foes, have not ruled out possible military action if diplomatic efforts fail to resolve the nuclear row. Iran says it would hit back if attacked.

The West suspects Iran of trying to build nuclear bombs while Iran says its program is for peaceful power generation.