Iran Says It Copies U.S.-designed Stinger missiles With AM-Gulf Rdp
NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) _ Iran is producing copies of the U.S. Stinger anti-aircraft missile and it is only one weapon in a wide range of arms Iran manufactures, the commander of the Revolutionary Guards said Saturday.
Tehran Radio, monitored in Nicosia, quoted Mohsen Rezaei as telling a news conference in the northeastern city of Mashhad that Iran has been making the shoulder-fired Stingers ″for a long time.″
He hinted that a Stinger might have been used to hit a U.S. helicopter the Iranians claimed was shot down during Thursday’s attack by American helicopters on three Iranian gunboats in the northern Persian Gulf. One boat sank and the two others were taken over by U.S. Navy vessels.
The United States denied any helicopter was downed, but the Tehran broadcast quoted Rezaei as saying the U.S. denial was an attempt ″to save face.″
The loss of a helicopter ″means a great defeat for the U.S. because it considers its modern helicopters a sign of its military superiority,″ he said.
U.S. Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger suggested Friday that the Iranians might have Stinger missiles when he said the two Iranian gunboats had equipment ″believed associated with the U.S. Stinger system.″
The Pentagon issued a statement later saying the equipment included batteries and packing material but no missiles. ″We do not know how the Iranians came into possession of this material. We are investigating,″ the statement said.
America has never sold the Stinger system to Iran.
Missiles that looked like Stingers were seen among new weapons displayed by Iranian forces during a march through Tehran, the capital, late last month. The parade marked the anniversary of the beginning of the war with Iraq in September 1980.
The United States has supplied the Stinger to only a handful of countries and recently to guerrillas in Afghanistan fighting troops of the Marxist government and its Soviet ally.
Two years ago, the U.S. Congress blocked sales of Stingers to Saudi Arabia, saying they could fall into terrorist hands.
It is considered possible that the Iranians obtained some Stingers from the Afghan guerrillas in return for supporting them and providing them with bases in northeast Iran.
Iran has claimed for some time that its arms industry now turns out many of the weapons it once had to buy on the black market because of a U.S.-inspired embargo.
Tehran radio quoted Rezaei as saying, ″The increase in domestic production of arms and ammunition saved $1.5 billion for the country last year.″
It reported he also said arms and ammunition production increased three- fold in the first half of the year compared to that period last year.