Iran General NewsIran's satellite program is 'troubling development,' U.S. says

Iran’s satellite program is ‘troubling development,’ U.S. says

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Bloomberg: Iran’s new space center built to send a research satellite into orbit is a “troubling development” because it employs the same technology used for producing long- range ballistic missiles, the U.S. State Department said. By Paul Tighe and Robin Stringer

Feb. 5 (Bloomberg) — Iran’s new space center built to send a research satellite into orbit is a “troubling development” because it employs the same technology used for producing long- range ballistic missiles, the U.S. State Department said.

The United Nations Security Council and “other members of the international system have expressed their deep concern about Iran’s continuing development of medium- and long-range ballistic missiles,” spokesman Sean McCormack said at a briefing in Washington yesterday.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad hours earlier inaugurated the country’s first space center, which will be used to launch the Omid satellite, the first such probe designed and built by Iranian scientists, the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency reported.

Iran in November said it built a missile capable of traveling 2,000 kilometers (1,243 miles), a range that takes in Israel’s main cities and U.S. bases in the Middle East. Iran is developing two “critical elements” needed for nuclear arms — electronic systems for ballistic missiles and uranium enrichment, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said in December.

Iran’s “continued search to perfect enrichment of uranium” remains the concern of the international community, McCormack said, according to a transcript. “They are clearly marching ahead on the development of a long-range missile.”

UN Sanctions

The U.S., Russia, China, France and the U.K., the five permanent members of the Security Council, as well as Germany, are preparing new sanctions on Iran for failing to halt its uranium enrichment program. The UN imposed two sets of sanctions on Iran in December 2006 and March 2007.

The U.S. says Iran’s program is a front for the development of an atomic bomb. A U.S. National Intelligence Estimate published Dec. 3 found that Iran abandoned work on nuclear weapons in 2003 and probably can’t produce enough uranium for a bomb until 2010 at the earliest.

The Iranian government says the program is intended to fuel power stations and not for developing weapons. Ahmadinejad said last month his country won’t back down on the nuclear issue.

Iran’s development of its space center is a testament to the self-belief of the Iranian people, the president said yesterday, according to IRNA. No power can dominate the Iranian nation, he added.

The center, situated in a desert region in northern Iran, includes an underground control room and launch area, Agence France-Presse reported, citing state media.

Iranian television yesterday showed pictures of the launch of a rocket to mark the opening of the center, AFP reported.

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