September 3, 2012 - 19:12 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - Iran has built about 30 percent of a missile defense system it is developing in place of the Russian S-300 system Moscow refused to sell it, and hopes to complete the system by next year, a senior military official said on Monday, September 3, according to Reuters.
Farzad Esmaili, commander of the army's air defense force, also reiterated that Iran will hold a large-scale air defense exercise in the next two months covering the whole country, the Iranian Students' News Agency (ISNA) reported.
Iran, under mounting pressure from Israel and Western powers over its controversial nuclear program, has unveiled upgrades to weapons systems and held several military exercises this year to demonstrate its ability to defend itself.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged world powers on Sunday to make clear to Tehran that they would not let it obtain nuclear arms. Israeli rhetoric has stoked speculation that Israel might attack Iran's nuclear sites, some buried deep underground, before the U.S. presidential election in November.
Western powers suspect Iran of trying to develop a nuclear weapons capability and have imposed several rounds of sanctions on it, but Tehran says its nuclear program is for purely peaceful purposes and refuses to suspend it.
ISNA quoted Esmaili on Monday as saying Iran would test its air defense systems in mid-to-late October or early November.
Moscow refused to sell the sophisticated S-300 system to Iran on the ground that it would violate expanded U.N. sanctions imposed over Iran's nuclear program.
Iran announced in November 2010 that it had adapted another Russian-made missile system to perform more like the S-300, a precision, mobile, long-range air defense system that can detect, track and destroy ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, and low-flying aircraft.
Military experts have cast doubt on Iran's claims of weapons advances, especially regarding its missile program, saying they are often exaggerated.
On Sunday, deputy defense minister Mohammad Eslami said plans were afoot to install missiles on long-distance unmanned drones that featured in missile tests earlier this year.
Authorities say the Karrar drone, unveiled in 2010, has a range of 1,000 kms (625 miles) and can carry a single cruise missile or several smaller missiles.