Source AP ©

New Iranian air base inaugurated near Afghan border

Iran expects strike by enemy forces operating in Afghanistan and has inaugurated a new air base near its eastern border with the neighboring country.

The new base is part of a broader military build-up by Tehran, which is concerned about the U.S. military's presence in neighboring Iraq and Afghanistan at a time of heightened tension between the two nations.

"Inauguration of this airbase was aimed at responding to a possible strike swiftly and strongly if a strike or attack is launched against the country," the head of Iran's air force, General Ahmad Mighani, told state television.

U.S. President George W. Bush has refused rule out military intervention as a way to respond to Iran's controversial nuclear program, which Washington believes is cover for weapons development - a charge Tehran denies. The U.S. also accuses Iran of supporting Shiite militias in Iraq.

Mighani said the base, which was inaugurated Monday, was meant to boost the presence of Iran's air force in the eastern part of the country. Most of the country's 12 air force bases are currently situated in the west.

The new air base is located in Birjand, some 1,300 kilometers (810 miles) southeast of the capital, Tehran.