TEHRAN, Iran (AP) – Iran on Saturday dismissed allegations it was providing test sites for North Korean long-range missiles designed to deliver nuclear warheads, the official Islamic Republic News Agency reported.

A Bush administration official claimed earlier that North Korea was getting around a self-imposed missile test ban by sharing technology information with Iran, which is allegedly carrying out missile tests on Pyongyang’s behalf.

Iranian Defense Minister Ali Shamkhani rejected the claim, saying, “Iran does not cooperate with North Korea in missile technology and it does not need to.”

President Bush has labeled Iran and North Korea as being part of an axis of evil, accusing both of pursuing nuclear weapons programs.

A leading military publication, Jane’s Defense Weekly, reported recently that North Korea was developing two new ballistic missile systems that have “appreciably expanded the ballistic-missile threat.”

Shamkhani said Iran is developing its Shahab-3 missile as a measure against Israel’s missile power, which Tehran concluded tests of last year.

The missile is thought to be capable of carrying a 2,200-pound warhead over a distance of some 800 miles, which would put Israel within its range.

While Shamkhani denied any kind of nuclear military activity by Iran, he said his country would not leave its people without defense.

“That’s why we have to invest on nuclear defense preparation,” he added without elaborating.

Washington is working with South Korea, Japan, China and Russia to negotiate an agreement with North Korea to end its nuclear weapons program.

With Iran, the White House has been trying to haul Tehran before the United Nations Security Council based on accusations that the Persian state has been trying to build nuclear weapons against its Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty obligations.

Iran maintains its nuclear program is entirely peaceful, geared toward production of nuclear energy.

AP-ES-08-07-04 1554EDT

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