Iran plans to launch telecoms satellite

Iran plans to launch a telecommunications satellite, the president said on Saturday, using missile technology the West fears is being developed to fire nuclear warheads.

Iran said last Sunday it had put a dummy satellite intoorbit on a domestically made rocket for the first time,although U.S. officials said the attempted launch was afailure.

“Today, the Iranian nation has obtained the technology toproduce different kinds of satellites and with God’s help itwill launch its first telecommunications … satellite intospace,” President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told a rally.

He did not give a timetable in the remarks carried by stateTV. Iran’s top aerospace official said on Thursday the countryaimed to send a manned rocket into space in the next 10 years.

“Our nation has a modern missile that can launch the secondstage missile 250 km (150 miles) into space. The second stageis a smaller missile carrying the satellite which has verycomplex technical equipment,” the president said.

The long-range ballistic technology used to put satellitesinto space can also be used for launching weapons.

The West, which accuses Iran of seeking to build a nuclearbomb, believes Tehran is seeking to developed more advancedmissile technology so it can launch atomic warheads. Irandenies any such intention and says its nuclear programme ispeaceful.

U.S. analyst Charles Vick, commenting on Iran’sannouncement last Sunday, said the Islamic Republic appeared tohave succeeded in igniting the second stage of its boosterrocket and gained data that will help it perfect its launchsystem.

The head of Iran’s aerospace organisation, Reza Taghipour,said on Thursday Iran would cooperate with Islamic states inbuilding a satellite. He also said Iran was working with Russiaand other Asian states to launch another satellite.

(Reporting by Zahra Hosseinian, writing by Edmund Blair,editing by Mary Gabriel)