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Iran tests air-defense system

TEHRAN, Nov. 18 (UPI) -- Iranian forces during military exercises meant to test its air defense capabilities launched its own air defense system, a military official said Thursday.

Iran began a five-day drill earlier this week. Hamid Arzhangi, a spokesman for the Iranian military, said the domestically built air-defense system dubbed Mersad was launched Thursday from an unmanned drone.

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"It is a completely indigenous digital system and is able to deal with electronic wars," he was quoted in the semiofficial Fars News Agency as saying. "It can intercept and annihilate modern aircraft in low- and high-altitude and connect to radar network."

Tehran announced recent plans to develop an air-defense system after Moscow pulled out of a deal to sell the S-300 system to Iran, citing recent U.N. sanctions on Tehran regarding its nuclear program.

Following a visit by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in October, Moscow opted to sell Venezuela the system.

A 2005 contract signed by Moscow and Tehran outlined the terms of the sale of the S-300 missile defense system. The missile system boasts a range of around 100 miles and can engage several targets at once.

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Tehran wanted the system to protect its nuclear installations from a possible aerial attack by the Israelis, who bombed an Iraqi nuclear facility in the 1980s.

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