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Iran satellite launch a failure: U.S. official

The Safir (ambassador) satellite-carrier rocket is seen before launch at Iran's space centre in Tehran August 17, 2008. REUTERS/FARS NEWS

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Iran’s attempt to launch a dummy satellite into orbit was a “dramatic failure” that fell far short of the country’s assertions of success, a U.S. official said on Tuesday

“The attempted launch failed,” the official said.

“The vehicle failed shortly after liftoff and in no way reached its intended position,” the official said. “It could be characterized as a dramatic failure.”

Iran, embroiled in a standoff with the West over its nuclear ambitions, said on Sunday it has put a dummy satellite into orbit on a home-grown rocket for the first time, using a technology that could also be used for launching weapons. Iran says it has no nuclear-weapons plans and that it seeks nuclear technology to generate electricity.

Iranian television showed the rocket on its launch pad, but did not show the actual lift-off.

“The failed launch shows that the purported Iranian space program is in its nascent stages at best -- they have a long way to go,” the U.S. official said.

Reporting by Randall Mikkelsen; Editing by Kristin Roberts