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As Iran flexes its muscles with a 10-day military exercise, a British official says the country has carried out several covert tests of nuclear-capable missiles
Iran has been carrying out covert tests of missiles capable of delivering a nuclear payload in violation of a U.N. resolution, William Hague, the British foreign secretary, said Wednesday. Tehran immediately denied the accusation, Reuters reported.
Hague's comments came a day after the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps said it had fired missiles in an exercise, one of them a medium-range weapon capable of striking Israel or U.S. bases in the Gulf, AFP said.
According to the Telegraph, Hague told Parliament on Wednesday:
Iran "has been carrying out covert ballistic missile tests and rocket launches, including testing missiles capable of delivering a nuclear payload."
Iran just began its 10-day military exercise, test-firing 14 missiles on Tuesday, Reuters said. Iran said that the missiles weren't capable of carrying nuclear payloads.
"None of the missiles tested by Iran is capable of carrying a nuclear warhead," Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast told Reuters, responding to Hague's remarks.
British officials said that the covert nuclear tests had occurred separately from the current, publicly declared tests, the Telegraph said. Britain believes that since last October, Iran has carried out three secret tests of missiles that could be used to carry nuclear material. The officials have reported those tests to the U.N. but didn't go public with the accusation before.
Iran's missile program, which is under the control of the powerful Revolutionary Guards, has been a concern in the West for some time. Resolution 1929, passed by the U.N. Security Council a year ago, tightened sanctions against Iran imposed over its nuclear program, which Western countries say is aimed at developing enriched uranium, necessary for building a nuclear weapon, according to Reuters.
Tehran says the program is for civilian purposes, aimed at generating power. The International Atomic Energy Agency says it is unable to verify whether Tehran's nuclear program is entirely peaceful, but last month raised "concern" about possible secret Iranian nuclear weapons development. according to CNN.
Hague also said that Iran had announced plans to triple its capacity to produce 20 percent enriched uranium, pointing out that: "These are enrichment levels far greater than is needed for peaceful nuclear energy," according to AFP.
He also reiterated the belief that Iran has been involved in the brutal suppression of demonstrations in Syria, an ally, according to Reuters. The European Union imposed sanctions against three Iranian Revolutionary Guard commanders last week for helping Syria in its crackdown on protests.
Iran and Syria denied that Tehran has played any role in the Syrian conflict.
Saudi Arabia has said that it will build nuclear weapons if there is evidence that Iran is close to developing them, the Telegraph said.
Prince Turki al-Faisal, a member of the ruling royal family and a senior diplomat, said that such a situation "would compel Saudi Arabia … to pursue policies which could lead to untold and possibly dramatic consequences."