August 18, 2008

Iran Launches Telecommunications Satellite

Iran launched the country's first domestically built telecommunications satellite on the final day of festivities marking the birth of iman Mohammed al-Mahdi.

The satellite Safir-e Omid, meaning "Ambassador of Peace," is part of Iran's developing space program, Iranian news agency IRNA reported Monday. Iranian officials said Safir-e Omid will monitor natural disasters and improve the country's telecommunications system. It also has the capacity for data processing.

Officials said they hope to launch four more satellites by 2010, IRNA reported.

The satellite's launch on Sunday added some controversy to the festival of Shiite iman, as critics say the festivities were being exploited for commercial and political purposes, the Financial Times reported.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader, called those who claimed to have been linked with the iman "liars." Government insiders say Khamenei is concerned about the level of religious fanaticism within the government, although he backs its economic, political and international policies, the Financial Times said.