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Iran holds war games, set to launch S300s

TEHRAN, Nov. 17 (UPI) -- A senior Iranian military commander says his country has conducted defense drills at its sensitive nuclear facilities ahead of planned aerial war games taking place over the country this week.

The Mehr state news agency quoted air force commander Gen. Ahmad Mighani saying that "tactical drills that resembled real combat" had been carried out in Fordo, Tehran, Natanz, Bushehr and Isfahan where Iran's nuclear reactors are located.

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The commander didn't state the exact dates of the drills.

Still, his remarks came as Iran prepared to test its homemade missile defense shield, built in defiance to Russia, which recently scrapped a deal to supply Tehran with a similar system.

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The Kremlin cited U.N. sanctions against Iran as the reason for halting a deal, made with Tehran five years ago, for S-300 ground-to-air missiles had been.

Military analysts have said that deployment of the S-300 missile system would have created problems in any potential war designs against Iran.

The United States and Israel opposed the sale of the system, which can destroy multiple aircraft and missiles at a range of about 100 miles and altitudes of up to 20 miles. It is able to simultaneously track up to 100 targets.

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Washington and some of its allies, including Israel, suspect Iran's civil nuclear energy program is a cover for a secret effort to develop weapons. Iran, though, has repeatedly rebuffed the accusation saying it only wants to enrich uranium to the lower levels used in producing fuel for power plants.

After the Russians pulled back from the deal, Iran said it would develop its own missile defense shield.

"Very soon we will test long-range aerial defense missiles, including Iranian S-300s," Brig. Gen. Mohammed Hassan Mansourian told the state news agency IRNA.

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It wasn't immediately clear whether the S-300 defense system would be part of five-day defense drill that kicked off Monday. The drill, Mighani said, was to take place "all over the country in order to improve defense capability."

Iran's armed forces regularly conduct such exercises to show off the country's military prowess.

Neither Israel nor the United States have ruled out striking at Iran to prevent it from acquiring what they suspect is nuclear capability.

Top Iranian officials, including President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, have lambasted Russia for pulling back from its S-300 sale. Moscow, said Ahmadinejad, had "sold out" Iran to its arch foe.

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