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DUBAI (Reuters) - Iran has constructed a rocket-launching site that could be used for testing ballistic missiles, a report from a military intelligence publication said on Thursday.
Satellite imagery analyzed by Jane's Intelligence Review showed extensive construction over the last three years at a site of what Jane's says is a launch tower and pad, an area to prepare rockets for launch and an administration and support section.
The Islamic Republic has pursued ambitious goals to develop its space program in recent years. In January this year it demonstrated its missile delivery systems by launching a live monkey into space and returning it safely, officials said.
Western countries are concerned that long-range ballistic technology used to propel Iranian satellites into orbit could be put to delivering nuclear warheads.
Assertions about the site, near the town of Shahrud some 100 km (62 miles) northeast of Tehran, come weeks after Iranian officials said they would inaugurate a new space centre to launch satellites.
Jane's says the Shahrud site is one of three that will ultimately serve Iran's space program.
"Imagery analysis of the Shahrud site suggests it will be a strategic facility used to test ballistic missiles, leaving the other two sites free to handle Iran's ambitious program of satellite launches," said Jane's editor Matthew Clements.
Iranian officials were not immediately available for comment.
Iran's efforts to develop and test ballistic missiles and build a space launch capability have contributed to Israeli calls for pre-emptive strikes on Iranian nuclear sites and billions of dollars of U.S. ballistic missile defense spending.
Reporting by Marcus George; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky