Iran said it had put a dummy satellite into orbit on a home-grown rocket for the first time on Sunday, triggering fresh concern in Washington that the technology could be diverted to ballistic missiles.
The launch is likely to further exacerbate tensions with the West over its nuclear drive, which
"The Safir (Ambassador) satellite carrier was launched today and for the first time we successfully launched a dummy satellite into orbit," Reuters quoted Reza Taghizadeh, head of the Iranian Aerospace Organization, as telling state television.
"We have paved the way for placing a satellite in space in future," state television said, showing images of the pre-dawn rocket launch which was attended by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Western governments, already concerned over
"The Iranian development and testing of rockets is troubling and raises further questions about their intentions," White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said.
"This action and dual use possibilities for their ballistic missile program are inconsistent with their U.N. Security Council obligations."
A top Iranian official told AFP that state media reports that the country’s first domestically-built satellite, called Omid or Hope, had been launched were not correct.
A defense ministry statement carried by the official news agency IRNA had said the rocket, "built by Iranian experts" was launched with Omid. But the official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the media was mistaken.
Iran’s Arabic-language state television broadcast footage of the rocket heading into space and graphics showing a satellite separating from a rocket.
Sunday’s development comes amid an international standoff over
"We do not wish to attack another country... but we will defend ourselves should we be attacked," Brigadier General Ahmad Mighani added, without however mentioning
Ahmadinejad has made
"This satellite, the rocket and the launch station are entirely Iranian-built, achieved by particularly talented scientists and technicians," Ahmadinejad told reporters in
In February, the deputy head of Iran’s space organization said the Omid satellite would be put into orbit at an altitude of 650 kilometers (400 miles) above the earth, passing over Iran six times every 24 hours.
Sundays launch came on the birth anniversary of eighth century Imam Mahdi, who vanished as a boy and who Shiites believe will return one day as the messiah.