Sunday Express: Iran's lurch towards becoming a nuclear power took another stride last night after reports of a new missile-launching facility. The Sunday Express
By Marco Giannangeli
IRAN’S lurch towards becoming a nuclear power took another stride last night after reports of a new missile-launching facility.
Satellite images of the complex reinforced concerns that the Islamic Republic is being aided by North Korea.
Iran unveiled the Simorgh (Phoenix) space launch vehicle (SLV) on February 3 but has not publicly revealed the location of the rocket’s launch complex.
According to Jane’s, the London-based intelligence group, new satellite images show a launch pad 6.5 miles north-east of the existing Semnan site. It could ultimately launch Tehran’s next-generation Simorgh rocket, said experts. Worryingly, the nature of construction suggests that Iran has been collaborating with Pyongyang.
Last month President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad proclaimed that Iran was officially a “nuclear state” after allegedly producing its first batch of uranium enriched to a higher level. The claims, made before hundreds of thousands of cheering Iranians on the 31st anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution, came a day after the US imposed tougher sanctions.
Mr Ahmadinejad repeated that Iran was pursuing nuclear energy and had no intention of producing nuclear weapons.
However, satellite images taken on that day revealed Simorgh and Safir-2 rockets displayed in Tehran’s Azadi Square.
The new site includes a gantry tower which is 43 feet wide, approximately 60 feet tall “and has a cliff-side flame bucket nearly as high as the tower itself”. A Jane’s report said: “It appears midway towards completion,” adding that the launch pad could easily accommodate the 88-foot Simorgh if the gantry were to be extended by 33 feet.
It went on: “The development of the Semnan facility and the Simorgh SLV both demonstrate the likelihood of collaboration with North Korea in Iran’s missile programme.
“The platforms seen on the new gantry tower resemble those seen on the gantry tower at North Korea’s new launch pad at Tongchang. A drainage pit 570 feet directly in front of the pad also mirrors one at Pyongyang’s new west-coast launch site.
“Similarly, the first stage of the Simorgh strongly resembles the North Korean Unha-2, with four clustered engines and nearly the same dimensions.”
The respected information group concluded: “Given these investments in its missile infrastructure, and despite the United States attempting to garner support for further sanctions against Iran for its nuclear programme, Tehran appears determined to continue developing its missile and rocket capabilities in the foreseeable future.”
Last night Shadow Defence Secretary Dr Liam Fox warned: “Iran is our single biggest emerging threat.”
He added: “If Iran becomes a nuclear weapon state, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Egypt will be next.
“After all that we did to try to stop nuclear proliferation at the end of the Cold War, failing with Iran will lead to a nuclear arms race in the world’s most unstable region.”