US missile defence chief: Iran can strike most of Europe

Iran probably can already hit most of Europe and even Britain with a ballistic missile, even though it has not demonstrated the capability, the Pentagon's missile defence chief said Monday.

"I personally believe, based on what I've seen, that right now Iran has the ability to reach most of Europe. Right now. And they just haven't demonstrated it yet," Lieutenant General Henry Obering said in an interview with Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa.

Obering heads the Pentagon's Missile Defence Agency, which is building the missile shield that the Bush administration wants to deploy to Poland and the Czech Republic to counter the Iranian threat.

US intelligence estimates have said that Iran could have the capability of hitting the United States by 2015, but the Islamic state's growing technological know-how adds to the sense of urgency for Washington to finalize the agreements with the two Eastern European countries, Obering said.

"That's one of the things that we're very worried about," he said.

The Czech Republic and United States have already concluded an agreement for the hosting of a radar site. The deal is pending parliamentary ratification in Prague.

Washington and Warsaw are still trying to work on an agreement to base 10 interceptors in Poland, but negotiations have dragged out over demands that the United States invest in Polish air defences.

The lengthy process with the Poles will not cause major delays in the timetable to deploy one or two interceptors by 2011 and the full set by 2013. Obering said that the original goal of fielding the system earlier in those years will now be pushed back but won't slip into the following years.

"We are going to be later than we expected," Obering said.

Russia fiercely opposes the anti-missile deployment and has threatened to target the Czech and Polish sites. The United States argues that the system would be too small to undermine Moscow's strategic deterrent, dpa reported.

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