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In defiant message to US, Iranian forces test fire 'strategic' weapon during naval drill

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TEHRAN, Iran — With an eye on U.S.-led nuclear talks, Iran's Revolutionary Guard on Friday announced it had test fired a "new strategic weapon" in the final day of a large-scale naval and air defense drill, saying the system would play a key role in any future battle against the "Great Satan."

The claim was a new show of force by Iran just weeks ahead of a deadline for reaching a deal over its nuclear program with the U.S. and other global powers.

Iran announced the test on the final day of military drills it is calling "Great Prophet 9." The exercises are being held near the Strait of Hormuz, a strategic waterway through which about a fifth of the world's oil passes.

Iran often holds live-fire war games and frequently boasts of advances in its weaponry that cannot be independently verified. The latest drill, which included a simulated attack on an American aircraft carrier, appeared to be aimed at sending a message that Iran has no intention of backing down to the U.S. in the nuclear talks.

Adm. Ali Fadavi, the Revolutionary Guard's naval chief, said the new weapon would be critical in any future naval war against the U.S.

"The new weapon will have a very decisive role in adding our naval power in confronting threats, particular by the Great Satan, the United States," he told the guard's website, sepahanews.com.

Fadavi told state TV that details of weapon will possibly be made public in coming years. "We have restrictions to expressing specifications and applications of the weapon," he said in a short interview recorded at night.

He did not elaborate, though state TV showed a brief video of missiles being launched into the sky from under the water during the daytime. Iran is known to have an advanced arsenal of missiles capable of striking as far away as Israel and U.S. military bases in the region.

Also on Friday, Iran's official IRNA news agency reported that the country has begun a regular two-day exercise on radiation emergency preparedness and response in the country's only nuclear power plant. The plant went online in 2011 with the help of Russia in southern port of Bushehr.

Gen. Gholam Reza Jalali, who heads a unit in charge of civil defense, was quoted as saying the exercise has aimed at "controlling supposed pollution" in the plant.

It said the drill was limited to preparations at the plant's headquarters, and a second stage would be held Saturday. The Iranian Foreign Ministry informed neighboring countries about the exercise, it added.

The U.S. and world powers are in the final stages of talks that they hope will reach an agreement over Iran's nuclear program. The international community suspect Iran is trying to develop a nuclear-weapons capability. Iran denies the charges, saying its nuclear program is solely for peaceful purposes. The two sides hope to reach a framework agreement in the coming weeks and a final deal in June.

Since 1992, Iran has sought to become self-sufficient in its military needs, producing mortars, tanks, torpedoes, jet fighters and light submarines.

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