TEHRAN, Iran (AP) – Iran’s military said Tuesday it has manufactured a new missile with a range of 1,200 miles capable of reaching Israel and U.S. bases across the Mideast, the official news agency IRNA reported.

The defense minister, Gen. Mostafa Mohammad Najjar, did not say whether Iran had test-fired the Ashoura or had plans to do so, according to the IRNA report. The name means “the tenth day” in Farsi, a sacred reference among Shiite Muslims to the martyrdom of Islam’s third imam.

Iran already had reported improvements in a previous missile that would give it the same range as the Ashoura, and Najjar did not elaborate about whether there are any differences between the two weapons.

Analysts believe Iranian military production has benefited from assistance from Russia, China and other countries, but many of Iran’s weapons development claims have not been independently verified.

Iran launched an arms development program during its 1980-88 war with Iraq to compensate for a U.S. weapons embargo imposed after the Islamic Revolution. Since 1992, Iran has reportedly produced its own jets, torpedoes, radar-avoiding missiles, tanks and armored personnel carriers.

Recent weapons development has been motivated by Iran’s standoff with the U.S. over its controversial nuclear program, which Washington claims is a cover for developing an atomic bomb. Tehran denies that, saying the program is intended to produce electricity.

Iran is known to possess a medium-range missile known as the Shahab-3, which means “shooting star” in Farsi, with a range of at least 800 miles. In 2005, Iranian officials said they had improved its range to 1,200 miles, equal to the new missile announced Tuesday.

In September during a military parade, Iran unveiled the Ghadr missile, which it said has a range of 1,119 miles.

Experts also believe Iran is developing the Shahab-4 missile, thought to have a range of 1,200-1,900 miles that would enable it to hit much of Europe.

In Israel, there was no official reaction to Iran’s statement. But missile expert Uzi Rubin, formerly head of the Arrow anti-missile project in Israel’s Ministry of Defense, said the announcement had long been expected.

Rubin said Israel already was in range of other Iranian missiles, so “the people who need to be really worried about the new missile are in Europe.”

While saying the Ashoura marks a “technological jump,” Rubin said he doubted it is operational because a test of the missile would likely have been picked up by U.S. intelligence.

“They are apparently at the initial stages,” he said. “The system is not yet operational, but it doesn’t mean that it can’t be.”

Associated Press writer Aron Heller in Jerusalem contributed to this report.

AP-ES-11-27-07 1614EST

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