BY Brian Kates
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER
Iran said it test-fired a new missile Wednesday with a range of about 1,200 miles - capable of striking Israel, southeastern Europe and U.S. bases in the Middle East.
Iranian strongman Mamoud Ahmadinejad said the new missile gave the Islamic state the power to "send to hell" any military base from which a "a bullet" could be fired against his country.
He singled out Israel.
"Right now the Zionist regime ... threatens Iran militarily with its false threats," Ahmadinejad said.
The test came just two days after President Obama said he would seek deeper international sanctions against Iran if it shunned American attempts to open talks on the Islamic state's nuclear program.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, pressed Obama to step up pressure on Tehran when the two met in Washington Monday.
If diplomatic efforts fail to stem Iran's nuclear ambitions, Obama has not ruled out military action and Israeli leaders have hinted at pre-emptive strikes.
Iran has said it would respond to any attack by targeting U.S. interests and closing the Strait of Hormuz, a vital route for world oil supplies.
Most Western analysts believe Iran does not yet have the technology to produce nuclear weapons, including warheads for long-range missiles.
A study by the nonpartisan EastWest Institute released Tuesday said Iran is making advances in rocket technology and could produce a simple nuclear device in one to three years.
But it predicted that a ballistic missile capable of firing a 2,200-pound nuclear warhead up to 1,200 miles would not be ready for "perhaps six to eight years."
"Defense Minister (Mostafa Mohammad Najjar) has informed me that the Sajjil-2 missile, which has very advanced technology, was launched from Semnan and it landed precisely on the target," state radio quoted Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as saying.
Ahmadinejad spoke at a rally in the northern Semnan province, where the Iranian news agency said the launch took place. State television showed footage of a missile soaring into the sky, leaving a vapor trail.
Iran says its missile program is merely for defense and its space program is for scientific and surveillance purposes. It maintains that its nuclear program is for civilian energy uses only.
The solid-fuel Sajjil-2 surface-to-surface missile is a new version of the Sajjil missile, which Iran said it had successfully tested late last year with a similar range.
Iran said in November it test fired a Sejil missile, describing it as a new generation of surface-to-surface missile. Tehran said it was ready to defend itself against any attacker.
Washington said at the time that the test highlighted the need for a missile defense system it plans to base in Poland and the Czech Republic to counter threats from "rogue states".
The Obama administration is reviewing the missile shield project for cost effectiveness and viability, though the President has said Washington would continue to research and develop the plans.
Ahmadinejad is running for re-election in a June 12 vote, and has been criticized for antagonizing the U.S. and mismanaging the country's faltering economy.