Official: Pakistan Test Fires Nuclear-Capable Missile

Pakistan (search) successfully test fired a nuclear-capable, surface-to-surface missile early Friday, saying it was the first of several such tests to be conducted over the next several days, the army said.

The Hatf-III Ghaznavi (searchreportedly has a range of 180 miles and can carry conventional and non-conventional weapons. It is considered a short-range missile, but could hit many important targets inside rival India (search).

"We have successfully test-fired the Hatf-III," said army spokesman Gen. Shaukat Sultan. The army later released a statement saying that India and other neighboring countries were informed before the test, and that it was the first of "a series" to be conducted in coming days.

In New Delhi, the Indian Defense Ministry had no immediate comment on the Pakistani missile test.

Sultan would not say where the test was conducted.

The missile test came as Prime Minister Zafarullah Khan Jamali was visiting the United States, and days after he met with President Bush.

India and Pakistan have frequently used missile tests as a form of diplomatic muscle-flexing.

Pakistan, however, denied the test was linked to politics.

"The timings of the tests reflect Pakistan's determination not to engage in a tit-for-tat syndrome to other tests in the region," an army statement said. "Pakistan will maintain the pace of its own missile development program and conduct tests as per its technical needs."

Pakistan's last missile test came on March 26, when it fired off a short-range missile shortly after India announced a similar test.

In 1998, the two countries conducted tit-for-tat nuclear weapons tests, shocking the world and earning years of sanctions.

Relations between Pakistan and India had appeared to be on the mend after Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee said in April that he sought peace talks, including over the flashpoint issue of the disputed border territory of Kashmir.

But talks have never gotten off the ground, and officials on both sides have resumed the name-calling and mudslinging that has so often characterized affairs on the subcontinent.

The two countries have fought two of their three wars over Kashmir, which is split between them but which both claim in its entirety.

They nearly came to blows again in 2002, each rushing hundreds of thousands of troops to the border before international mediation brought them back from the brink.