Iran says unveils new homemade fighter jet

DUBAI Sat Feb 2, 2013 2:34pm IST

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DUBAI (Reuters) - Iran unveiled what it said was a new, domestically built fighter jet on Saturday, local media reported.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said at a ceremony in Tehran that the Qaher 313 demonstrated Iran's growing self-reliance in the field of military technology.

Iran's functional air force has been limited to perhaps as few as a few dozen strike aircraft, either Russian or ageing U.S. models acquired before the 1979 Iranian revolution.

The Islamic Republic, under an international arms embargo, has long struggled to find spare parts and some military experts say the fleet is outdated.

"This advanced fighter jet with unique physical characteristics has a very low radar cross section and therefore is capable of operating at low altitudes," Defence Minister Ahmad Vahidi said of the Qaher 313, according to Mehr news agency.

Tensions in the region have simmered over Tehran's nuclear programme. Israel has threatened to bomb its nuclear sites if diplomacy and sanctions fail to stop Iranian nuclear activity the West suspects is aimed at developing a weapons capability.

Iran denies the weapons charge, saying it seeks only electricity and medical isotopes.

"Now the speed of Iran's development in science and technology does not depend on circumstances, it depends on our will," Ahmadinejad said on Saturday in remarks carried on state television. "We should set higher targets. We see that it is possible, we have the capabilities."

"This project carries the message of brotherhood, peace, and security and it doesn't pose any threat to anyone. There is no intention to interfere in any other country's affairs," he said.

Iran often holds military drills and announces weapons advances that it says are for purely deterrent purposes, though some analysts are sceptical of such reported advances because they cannot be independently verified.

Western sanctions levied on Iran's energy and banking sectors have damaged its economy and limited oil sales, a major source of revenue for the government. But Tehran has shown no sign of backing down from what it says is its right to enrich uranium for civilian uses.

Iran is commemorating the 34th anniversary of the 1979 Islamic revolution that toppled the U.S.-backed Shah in 10 days of events that began on Thursday.

(Reporting By Yeganeh Torbati; Editing by Pravin Char)

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