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Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Iran Launches First Home-Made Satellite; US, Britain 'Concerned'

03/02/2009 | Al Manar

Iran launched its first home-made satellite into orbit on Tuesday, state television reported, displaying progress in space technology at a time of persistent international tension and embargo over its nuclear program.

The Omid (Hope) satellite, sent into space as Iran marks the 30th anniversary of the 1979 Islamic revolution this month, was designed for research and telecommunications, said the television, which carried footage of the launch.

The long-range ballistic technology used to put satellites into orbit can also be used for launching weapons, although Iran says it has no plans to do so.
"In another achievement for Iranian scientists under sanctions, Iran launched its first home-made Hope satellite into orbit," said the television.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was quoted by the television as saying in a message: "Iran's presence in space with the aim of expanding monotheism, peace and justice has now been officially recorded in history."

The Omid was designed for gathering information and testing equipment and was carrying experimental satellite control devices and power supply systems, the television said. Tehran says its nuclear ambitions are limited to the production of energy, and has emphasized its satellite project is entirely peaceful.

Speaking after the launch, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki stressed the project was peaceful. "Iran's satellite technology is for purely peaceful purposes and to meet the needs of the country," Mottaki said on the fringes of an African Union summit in Ethiopia.

Iran will no doubt reply that it is once again being judged by double standards for using a technology that is commonplace in many other parts of the world, Ahmadinejad said after the launch.

Last August, Iran said it had successfully launched a rocket capable of carrying its first domestically built satellite, having in February launched a low-orbit research rocket as part of preparations for the satellite launch. The White House called the 2008 launch "unfortunate", warning it would further isolate Iran from the global community.

The television broadcast said the Omid would return to earth after orbiting for one to three months, with data that would help experts send an "operational satellite" into space. Iran already had a satellite in orbit but the Sina-1 was launched by a Russian rocket in 2005, said the television.

The United States Tuesday voiced "great concern" after Iran said it launched its first domestically made satellite into orbit, adding the issue would likely be discussed with visiting British and German foreign ministers.

State Department acting spokesman Robert Wood expressed concern after another US official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said Tehran appeared to have put the satellite into low Earth orbit. "Developing a space launch vehicle that ... could put a satellite into orbit could possibly lead to development of a ballistic missile system," Wood told the daily press briefing.

"That's of great concern to us," he said. "UN Security Council Resolution 1718 prohibits Iran from engaging in missile-related activities." He said topics related to Iran would be discussed Tuesday in US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's meetings with British Foreign Secretary David Miliband and German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier. "I'm certain that Iran will come up in that conversation," Wood told reporters when asked if the satellite launch would be raised in her separate meetings with the two European foreign ministers.

In London, British Foreign Office Minister Bill Rammell voiced "serious concerns" about the reported launch. There was no immediate reaction from Berlin.

Clinton's talks with her European counterparts come before top envoys from the United States, Britain, Germany, France, China and Russia meet Wednesday in Germany for their first meeting since US President Barack Obama took office.

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