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. Iranian Revolutionary Guards kick off major exercises
TEHRAN (AFP) Sep 12, 2004
Iran's Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) kicked off major exercises Sunday aimed at testing out new equipment and maintaining its "spirit of Jihad and defence", state television reported.

The head of the IRGC, General Yahya Rahim Safavi, said the "Great Manoeuvre of Ashura" would involve 12 divisions from what he described as the "biggest deterrent power in the region".

He said the exercises across northwestern Iran were aimed at "testing and appraising new and advanced equipment and maintaining the spirit of jihad and defence among our forces" as well as testing "modern tactics".

"No place in Islamic Iran is outside the defence, security and supervisory domain of the Revolutionary Guards' defensive operations," the general was quoted as saying.

He said the manoeuvres would also try out "surface to surface missiles with different ranges, air defence systems with various surface to air missiles, fighter-bombers", and "for the first time in Iran, the transfer of T-72 tanks on gigantic planes".

"We have very good deterrent power, especially ballistic missiles," Safavi said.

The exercises are due to end on Septmember 20, state media said.

The Revolutionary Guards, one of Iran's most powerful institutions, are a separate armed forces set up in the wake of the 1979 Islamic revolution, and have a separate command structure to the regular armed forces.

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