Iranian officials have made a point of highlighting the Islamic state's military capabilities in recent weeks in response to some media reports that Israeli or US warplanes could launch air strikes to destroy Iranian nuclear facilities.

Iran last week said it carried out a successful test-firing of an upgraded version of its Shahab-3 medium-range ballistic missile. Military experts said the unmodified Shahab-3 was already capable of striking Israel or US bases in the Gulf.

"The entire Zionist territory, including its nuclear facilities and atomic arsenal, are currently within range of Iran's advanced missiles," the ISNA students' news agency quoted Yad Allah Javani, head of the Revolutionary Guards political bureau, as saying on Sunday.

"Therefore, neither the Zionist regime nor America will carry out its threats against Iran", he said.

Israeli missile system

An attack on Iran "could only be carried out by angry or stupid people. For that reason, officials of the Islamic Republic must always be prepared to counter possible military threats", Javani said.

US and Israeli officials accuse Iran of developing nuclear weapons, a charge Iran denies.

"The entire Zionist territory, including its nuclear facilities and atomic arsenal, are currently within range of Iran's advanced missiles"

Yad Allah Javani,
Iranian official

Israel's Arrow missile defence system, designed to counter missiles such as the Shahab-3, passed its first live test in July by downing a Scud missile off the coast of California.

Israeli officials say they plan further tests in the near future against "threats" which more closely resemble the Shahab-3.

"Such statements by Iran only serve to demonstrate the need for Israel to maintain and further develop defensive systems such as the Arrow II," a senior Israeli defence source said on Sunday.

Sabre-rattling

"It appears that Iran is rattling its sabre for fear of a pre-emptive strike by Israel or the United States - however grounded in fact such fears are or are not," the source said.

In a military operation condemned by the international community, Israeli warplanes destroyed the Osirak nuclear reactor in Iraq in 1981.

Israeli PM Ariel Sharon says Iran
is Israel's greatest threat

But many diplomats and defence experts say air strikes against Iran's nuclear plants are unlikely to disable Tehran's nuclear capability, much of which has been built underground, and could prompt a swift military reaction from Iran.

Since its 1979 Islamic revolution Iran has refused to recognise Israel's right to exist and allied itself to the Palestinian cause.

Its political opposition to Israel spilled over to the Olympic Games in Athens this week when an Iranian judo medal favourite withdrew rather than fight an Israeli he was scheduled against.