Wholesale Manufacture of Shehab-3 Speeded up

An Iranian production line in the center of the country is in accelerated manufacture of Shehab-3 ballistic missile batteries capable of delivering nuclear warheads. Reporting this from its exclusive military sources, DEBKA-Net-Weekly notes that batteries of 950-mile range Shehab-3 missiles are being set up at a location east of Bafq and south of Yazd. North Korean missile and mining experts are lodged in both towns. The plant is turning out between 16 and 18 missiles a month, or 210-220 units per year. The site is close by a source of uranium deposits, although the Iranians use very little ore from this source for uranium enrichment.

Satellite and air surveillance photos indicate that each launching unit will consist of 15 batteries with 12 missiles each. The Bafq site appears to be planned as the main operational center for the Shehab-3 launchers. Iran appears to have no plans for a second site before the year 2015. The new missiles will most likely be in position at the site, fitted with conventional warheads, by February or March 2004.

From there, the missiles are capable of targeting eastern Turkey, southern Russia, most of the Caspian region and much of Central Asia, as well as Pakistan, Afghanistan, Israel and the Red Sea coastal regions of Egypt and Sudan, all of Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf emirates.

DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s military sources have learned that Iran is in advanced negotiations with Syria and Libya for the sale of part of its missile output to cover part of its outlay on development, production and setting up a launching site. Libya is keen to buy a large quantity of Shehab-3 missiles for sums running into billions of dollars if Iran is willing to set up a production line in Libya. Tehran has offered Syria an earlier version of the missile with a maximum range of 600 miles.

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