Fears of a new Middle East arms race have deepened after Iran announced that it had developed a new long-range missile system capable of hitting Israel and American bases in the region.
Annapolis sets 2008 for Palestinian state
The successful development of the Ashura missile, which has a range of 1,200 miles, was announced by Mostofa Mohammed Najjar, the Iranian defence minister.
France immediately condemned the announcement and gave warning that the West needed to be "extremely vigilant with regard to Iran's actions and intentions".
The development came as it was revealed that Syria is negotiating with Russia to purchase anti-aircraft missile systems capable of shooting down Israeli aircraft.
Lebanese military officials have reported that the Syrians have made an urgent request to Moscow for the shoulder-fired SA18 anti-aircraft system to help protect it from attack by Israel.
The Lebanese also suspect that the Syrians aim to pass some of the missile systems to Hizbollah, the radical Lebanese Shia Muslim militia with close ties to Damascus.
The Syrians are set to receive the new missiles by the end of the year, according to the officials.
Syria and Iran, which signed a mutual defence pact two years ago, have been working closely together on developing long-range missiles and improving their air defences.
Recent attempts by Teheran and Damascus to develop more effective missile systems have resulted in a series of unexplained accidents, including the deaths of several scientist in September.
Iran has repeatedly warned that it would target American bases in the region if it came under attack over Teheran's refusal to halt its controversial uranium enrichment programme.
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