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US denies missile test report
Report said missile capable of carrying nuclear warheads launched out of Saudi Arabia.
Last Modified: 01 Apr 2010 06:59 GMT

Gates discussed bolstering Saudi air and missile defence capabilities during a visit in March [AFP]

The US defence department has denied that the military, during a joint defence exercise with Saudi Arabia, test-fired a submarine-launched ballistic missile capable of carrying nuclear warheads.

Jonathan Withington, a Pentagon spokesman, said on Wednesday that there was no launch of Trident or any other missile during the exercise, which began last week.

The denials came after wire services reported quoting an unnamed Western military official in Saudi Arabia on Wednesday that a Trident missile was launched out of the kingdom.

The official also said that Lieutenant-General Patrick O'Reilly, director of the Pentagon's Missile Defence Agency, attended the test launch.

The Pentagon confirmed that while O'Reilly was in the region last week, he did not attend a missile launch.

Robert Gates, the US defence secretary, discussed strengthening Saudi air and missile defence capabilities during a visit to the kingdom in March.

This was part of a broader US effort to boost security in the Gulf in the face of Iran's expanding arsenal of ballistic missiles.

Nuclear concern

Iran's missile programme, like its nuclear work, is of major concern to the US and certain Arab states wary of Tehran's growing influence in the region.

The US has promised to speed up weapons sales, including missile-defence hardware, to Saudi Arabia and other Gulf nations, which have bought billions of dollars worth of American weapons in recent years.

They are trying to reassure Gulf allies by buttressing its defence systems with upgraded Patriot missiles on land and more US navy ships in the Gulf, capable of destroying missiles in flight.

The Patriot missile systems, which originally were deployed in the region to shoot down aircraft, have now been upgraded to hit missiles in flight.

Prince Khaled bin Sultan, the Saudi deputy defence minister, said on Monday that Saudi and US warplanes would carry out joint training exercises.

Source:
Agencies
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