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Iran parades new missile, tank on war anniversary

TEHRAN, Iran (Reuters) - Iran's Revolutionary Guards showed off their own surface-to-surface missile for the first time Wednesday as President Mohammad Khatami pledged that Iranian forces would help maintain regional security. (Related photos)

In a military parade marking the start of the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war, the elite Guards and regular army units rolled out a wide range of Iranian-made military hardware, prompting Khatami to tout the export potential of the local arms industry.

Khatami took the salute as thousands of ground, navy and air force troops and Revolutionary Guards snapped into a goose-step when they passed the reviewing stand in Tehran's Azadi (Freedom) Square.

The army paraded its Shehab missiles, armored personnel carriers and an upgraded version of the locally made Zolfaqar tank, lighter and more maneuverable than its predecessor and fitted with a laser-guided aiming system.

"Our armed forces are not warmongering, but they would counter warmongers. They are the protectors of regional peace and security," said Khatami.

He denounced the presence in the Gulf of "foreign" forces, a reference to Western naval and air forces based in the strategic waterway and in Gulf Arab states.

"The armed forces are moving toward self-sufficiency. They are able to export their hardware to friendly nations," he said.

Flowers covered Khatami's reviewing stand and large portraits commemorated Iranian commanders killed in the devastating war against Iraq.

War veterans in wheelchairs and nomadic tribesmen in colorful attire also joined the parade.

A phalanx of women toting assault rifles with flowers in the barrels marched past wearing black chadors, the all-enveloping dress worn by traditional Muslim women in the Islamic republic.

"We have developed the Zelzal missile in the past four and a half years without any outside help and by the grace of God it is now in mass production," Brig. Gen. Gholamhossein Gheibparvar, the official in charge of the parade, told Reuters.

Gheibparvar declined to reveal the range or payload of the missile, apparently a new version of Iran's Zelzal-3 missile.

Iran will launch an eight-day submarine exercise Saturday at the mouth of the Gulf, during which the land-based Fajr-e Darya missile will be test-fired over the sea, the official news agency IRNA reported.

It was not immediately clear if the missile was a new version of Iran's Fajr-4 missile.

The London-based Jane's Defense Weekly said last year that Iran had become the third country in the Middle East, after Israel and Egypt, to manufacture main battle tanks.


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