February 7, 2008 / 7:03 PM / 10 years ago

France says Iranian "rocket" cannot work in space

PARIS (Reuters) - France said on Thursday an Iranian rocket Tehran says is intended to put a satellite into orbit is in fact a missile that cannot navigate in space, and added to concerns that the technology is aimed at making weapons.

On Monday, Iran launched what it said was a rocket designed to carry a locally-made research satellite. The know-how required to make rockets can also be used to produce missiles, but analysts have been divided over the launch’s significance.

Washington, Iran’s arch-foe, reacted by saying Tehran’s missile-testing was unfortunate. Russia, which has closer ties, said the launch raised the suspicion that Iran was seeking nuclear weapons, an allegation that Tehran denies.

“United Nations Security Council resolutions 1696, 1737 and 1747 have shown the international community’s concern in the face of the development of the Iranian ballistic missile program, which can be a source of vectors of weapons of mass destruction,” French Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Pascale Andreani told a regular online question-and-answer session.

“This new test, presented by the Iranian authorities as the illustration of a space program when the missile in question does not have extra-atmospheric capabilities, is a further source of concern,” she added.

World powers including the United States, France and Russia are negotiating a third round of U.N. sanctions against Iran for failing to heed demands that it suspend sensitive technology such as uranium enrichment, a process that can produce fuel for power plants or, potentially, bombs.

Diplomats say Russia and China forced France, Britain and the United States to water down the punitive measures planned against the Islamic republic, which makes Russia’s comments about the Iranian rocket launch all the more surprising.

Reporting by Francois Murphy; editing by Andrew Dobbie

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