August 18, 2008

Iran’s Dummy Satellite Clouded In Suspicion

Iran put a dummy satellite into orbit on an Iranian made rocket for the first time on Sunday. The launch is likely to increase Western unease over Iran's nuclear aspirations.

"The Safir (Ambassador) satellite carrier was launched today and for the first time we successfully launched a dummy satellite into orbit," said Reza Taghizadeh, head of the Iranian Aerospace Organization.

The same long-range ballistic rockets used to put satellites into orbit, are also the same type of rockets used in launching nuclear weapons, although Iran says it has no plans to do so.

Iran caused international distress in February when it tested a rocket as part of its Explorer 1 satellite program.  The central-Eurasian nation has been entangled in a clash with the West over its nuclear aspirations.

At the time, Iran said it needed two more launches before they could put an Iranian made satellite into space.

Russia and France both said the test raised further suspicions over Iran's nuclear ambitions.

The United States called the test "Ëœunfortunate,' citing Iran's development of ballistic missiles as a reason to install anti-missile defense systems in Eastern Europe.

Iran currently maintains that they have missiles with a range of 1,250 miles, giving them the ability to hit U.S. military bases in the Gulf or Israel.

Western nations accuse Iran of hiding its nuclear arms development under the guise of a civilian program.  Iran, which is the world's fourth largest oil producer, says it needs nuclear power to generate electricity.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad read the launch countdown out loud at the Iranian space centre.

Iranian television showed the rocket sitting on its launch pad, but did not show it lifting off.  Very few details were released about the rocket, but state-sponsored Iranian television called it a "great achievement."

Experts in Western nations say they know little about Iran's actual advances, but say the majority of the technology is modified equipment provided by China, North Korea, and others.

Iran has been handed three rounds of sanctions from the U.N. Security Council to suspend its uranium enrichment program.

Ahmadinejad insists that the sanctions have made Iran an even stronger nation.

"Sanctions have not isolated us. Instead, we have become more independent," he said.