Chinese Reportedly Helping Build Iranian Missile Factory
MANAMA, Bahrain (AP) _ Iran, with help from China, is building a plant to produce surface-to- surface missiles with a range of more than 500 miles, Western diplomatic sources said today.
The sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, also said Iran continues to develop materials to conduct chemical warfare.
They said the missile factory is in northeastern Iran, but they did not give the precise location. ″It’s a missile plant and the Chinese are lending support to build it. That much is known,″ one source said.
Surface-to-surface missiles are used against land targets such as military installations and population centers.
Although Iran and China deny any arms deals, U.S. and other Western officials say China has been a principal supplier of weapons for Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s regime.
The sales, estimated by these experts at more than $1 billion, have included two types of jet aircraft and the HY-2 Silkworm and C-801 anti-ship missiles, which have a range of less than 100 miles.
China’s deputy prime minister, Tian Jiyun, ended a five-day trip to Iran on Tuesday, according to Tehran television, monitored in Cyprus. It said the visit concentrated on trade and industrial ties, and made no mention of weapons.
Iran said a year ago it was building its own version of a ″foreign missile″ for use against Iraq. A U.N.-mediated cease-fire on Aug. 20 halted the eight-year war between Iran and Iraq.
Iran has not given details on the missile it is building, but Western experts have said it would be relatively simple for the Iranians to have copied Soviet-designed ″Scud-B″ rockets acquired from Syria or Libya.
China’s arsenal does not include a surface-to-surface missile with a 500- to 600-mile range, according to the authoritative reference Jane’s Weapons Systems. However, the Soviet Union has produced a series of mobile, land-based missiles including the SS-12 and its successor, the SS-22, each with a range of about 540 miles. The Soviets also are replacing the Scud-B with the SS-23, a 300-mile range missile.
During the Iran-Iraq war, the nations periodically bombarded each others’ population centers, a practice that became known as the ″war of the cities.″
Baghdad, Iraq’s capital, is only 60 miles from the border and originally gave Iran a strong advantage. But the ″war of the cities″ reached unprecedented intensity last year when Iraq began using long-range missiles to batter Tehran and other areas of Iran previously beyond range.
Some analysts have said Iraq’s use of the missiles, Soviet Scud-Bs with so- called ″strap-on″ boosters to increase their 160-mile range, was a key factor in forcing Iran to agree to the cease-fire.
The diplomatic sources said Iraq and Iran were known to be continuing the development of chemical weapons.
Iraq admitted to the use of poison gas against Iranian forces and Kurdish rebels during the war, and a United Nations report in April said there was evidence that Iran also had used gas.
Iran says it has the ability to manufacture chemical weapons but that it has neither produced nor used them in the war.