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Iran unveils domestically built fighter jet

A handout picture released by the Iranian presidency website shows Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (C) and Defence Minister Ahmad Vahidi (R) speaking with the pilot of the domestically designed and built Qaher (Conqueror) F-313 fighter jet during a ceremony to unveil it in a warehouse in Tehran on February 2, 2013. Iran unveiled the grey, futuristic-looking fighter jet, with Ahmadinejad touting it as "one of the most advanced" aircraft in the world. (AFP)

By Agencies

Iran unveiled what it said was a new, domestically built fighter jet on Saturday, local media reported. 

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said at a ceremony in Tehran that the Qaher 313 demonstrated Iran's growing self-reliance in the field of military technology. 

Iran's functional air force has been limited to perhaps as few as a few dozen strike aircraft, either Russian or ageing US models acquired before the 1979 Iranian revolution. 

The Islamic Republic, under an international arms embargo, has long struggled to find spare parts and some military experts say the fleet is outdated.  

"This advanced fighter jet with unique physical characteristics has a very low radar cross section and therefore is capable of operating at low altitudes," Defence Minister Ahmad Vahidi said of the Qaher 313, according to Mehr news agency. 

Tensions in the region have simmered over Tehran's nuclear programme.

Iran denies the weapons charge, saying it seeks only electricity and medical isotopes.  

"Now the speed of Iran's development in science and technology does not depend on circumstances, it depends on our will," Ahmadinejad said on Saturday in remarks carried on state television. "We should set higher targets. We see that it is possible, we have the capabilities." 

"This project carries the message of brotherhood, peace, and security and it doesn't pose any threat to anyone. There is no intention to interfere in any other country's affairs," he said. 

Iran often holds military drills and announces weapons advances that it says are for purely deterrent purposes, though some analysts are sceptical of such reported advances because they cannot be independently verified.   

Western sanctions levied on Iran's energy and banking sectors have damaged its economy and limited oil sales, a major source of revenue for the government.

But Tehran has shown no sign of backing down from what it says is its right to enrich uranium for civilian uses. 

US ready for direct talks if leadership is serious: Biden 

Vice President Joe Biden says the US is prepared to hold direct talks with Iran in the standoff over its nuclear ambitions — but only if the leadership in Tehran "is serious."

Washington has indicated in the past that it's prepared to hold talk directly with Iran, and talks involving all five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany have made little headway.

Asked at an international security conference when direct talks might be possible, Biden replied Saturday: "when the Iranian leadership, the supreme leader, is serious."

Biden says the offer stands "but it must be real and tangible and there has to be an agenda that they're prepared to speak to. We're not prepared to do it just for the exercise."