Irans missiles may have capability to hit Israel

WASHINGTON — Iran is less than three years away from having nuclear missiles capable of reaching Israel, according to Israeli intelligence reports.

According to a Washington Times article based on these reports, Russia and China are helping Iran build missiles that could reach Israel as well as parts of Europe.

According to the Washington Times, the Israelis have given the CIA a copy of a $7 million contract between Iran and the Russian rocket-motor manufacturer NPO Trud. The report says the head of the Russian Space Agency, Yuri Koptev, is directly involved in Iran's program.

The cooperation appears to violate the Missile Technology Control Regime and could trigger sanctions against the company and perhaps the Russian government.

On Thursday, Russia denied it was providing missile technology to Iran.

A Foreign Ministry spokesman said Russia's nuclear cooperation with Iran involves construction of a nuclear power plant and provided "no grounds" for concern.

President Clinton raised concerns about Russian cooperation with Iran in meetings with Russian President Boris Yeltsin earlier this year.

Vice President Al Gore is expected to raise the issue with the Russian prime minister, Viktor Chernomyrdin, in meetings scheduled for later this month.

U.S. officials say that Iran does not yet have nuclear material for missiles, but could substitute chemical or biological warheads.

Alarmed by Iran's movement, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the pro-Israel lobby, is supporting a congressional resolution that calls on Clinton to impose sanctions on Russian entities supporting Iran's missile program if the Russian government fails to take "concrete actions to stop governmental and non-governmental entities" from providing missile technology and technical advice to Iran.

Iran's missile program "has an even greater sense of urgency now because it is a near-term, real-world problem and therefore requires top-priority U.S. attention," said Howard Kohr, president of AIPAC.

The issue was also raised during meetings this week between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.