News

[EXCERPTS] DoD News Briefing

Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ASD (PA)
Thursday, April 17, 1997 - 2:30 p.m.

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Q: Can the DoD confirm a test about two weeks ago by the Iranians of a
medium range ballistic missile with an unconventional capability and
warhead? This was reported by the Israeli Defense Minister early this
week. Have you any knowledge of that?

A:  I do not and I cannot confirm it.

Q: In Jane's today there's a report of the Iranians publicly
proclaiming they're going to drop all of their missiles, all their
missile programs purchased from the Koreans or the Chinese, because
they're afraid that if they don't, they actually want to drop the
pretext of a preemptive strike by the Israelis of their nuclear
facilities. Do you think this is smoke, or do you have any comment?

A: There is no need for the Iranians to build up their forces in the
Gulf, and it certainly would be prudent for them to make a commitment
to peace rather than to war, make a commitment to disarmament rather
than armament. The Iranian economy is facing difficulties now, and
they could well use money to promote their economic growth and
stability rather than an arms race in the Gulf. I cannot comment on
that particular report. That sounds to me as if it's a question the
Iranians should answer because they can best describe their own
weapons purchase programs.

Q: Obviously. I'm asking if you thought it was critical what they were
saying about avoiding attack by the Israelis by scrapping their
missiles.

A: I think the Iranians are best able to comment on the credibility of
their own weapons purchase programs.

Q: Is there any indication that Iran is attempting to buy
anti-aircraft missiles or hand-held missiles from Russia? Have we had
any discussions with Russia about that?

A: This was addressed at great length by Mike McCurry at the White
House yesterday. I don't have much to add to that. We have discussed,
as Mike McCurry said, with the Russians over several years our concern
about a buildup by the Iranian military with Russian help. We believe
that the area will be more stable if arms sales are held to a minimum
to Iran, and we also have told the Russians that we believe that
arming Iran could ultimately be a threat to all countries in the area.

So we've made our position very clear to the Russians. It is brought
up almost every time President Clinton meets with President Yeltsin,
and it's brought up at other levels as well.