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Iran tests air defense system amid tensions with West and Israel – Middle East Monitor

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Iranian air defense units on Saturday fired a missile over the Natanz nuclear power plant in central Isfahan province to test the rapid missile defense system, officials said.

The explosion took place around 9 p.m., causing panic and fear amid conflicting information in the local media.

Nour News, a news agency affiliated with the country’s top security organization, said the explosion was the result of a defensive missile fired into the air “in an attempt to test a rapid response to a possible attack.”

Security officials, speaking to state television, said the incident was caused by a “controlled explosion” of a missile fired by the air defense system.

The incident took place in the Badroud neighborhood of Natanz town in the central Isfahan province, about 20 km from the country’s main nuclear facility, which has seen numerous sabotage attacks in the past.

Natanz air defense commander reportedly said by state media that a missile was fired to “assess the readiness” of air defense systems, adding that there was “nothing to fear “.

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He said such exercises are carried out in “a completely secure atmosphere and in full coordination with the integrated defense network aiming to assess the systems.”

It comes amid heightened tensions between Iran and the West over the stalemate over the nuclear deal. The latest round of talks in Vienna was adjourned on Friday without a significant breakthrough.

Parties to the 2015 nuclear deal are expected to meet again next week to discuss Iran’s two draft proposals for sanctions lifting and nuclear commitments.

US officials have warned against exploring “other options” if the Vienna talks fail.

On the other hand, Israeli officials have called on world powers to immediately halt nuclear talks with Iran, alleging that Tehran has stepped up its nuclear enrichment.

Iran has repeatedly in the past accused Israel of carrying out acts of sabotage at its nuclear facilities, including Natanz, and of killing its best nuclear scientists.

READ: New round of Vienna talks on Iran nuclear deal postponed without breakthrough