Iran's Guard begins new land military exercises

February 19, 2012 - 6:05 AM

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran's Revolutionary Guard says it has begun a two-day land military exercise to upgrade its capabilities to defend the country against possible external threats.

Commander of the Guard's ground forces Mohammad Pakpour said on comments posted on the force's website sepahnews.com that the maneuvers dubbed Valfajr, or Dawn, began Sunday outside the city of Yazd in central Iran.

The Guard is Iran's most powerful military unit.

The exercises are the latest in a series of maneuvers held amid escalating tensions between Iran and the West over Iran's nuclear program.

The U.S. and Israel have not ruled out military strikes against Iran's program, which they say aims at developing weapons technology. Iran says the program is for peaceful purposes.