World News

Iran ready to put Muslim countries' satellite in orbit

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran said on Monday it was ready to help fellow Muslim states launch satellites into orbit after it successfully put a dummy satellite into orbit -- a move that may increase Western suspicions over its atomic ambitions.

Iran said on Sunday it had put the home-grown dummy satellite into orbit on a domestically made rocket for the first time. The long-range ballistic technology used to put satellites into space can also be used for launching weapons.

Iran says has no intention to do so.

Head of Iran’s Aerospace Organization, Reza Taghipour, said Iran wanted to help Muslim countries to launch satellites.

“I am announcing now that Iran is ready to launch satellites of friendly Islamic countries into space,” Taghipour told state television.

Embroiled in a standoff with the West over its nuclear ambitions, Iran in February tested another domestically made rocket as part of its satellite program.

Washington, accusing Iran of aiming to equip missiles with nuclear warheads, called the February test ‘unfortunate’. It cites Iran’s missile potential, among others, as the reason why it needs to install an anti-missile defense system in eastern Europe.

France and Russia both said the February test raised the suspicion that Iran was seeking to develop nuclear weapons.

The United states and its European allies fear Iran is trying to obtain nuclear arms under cover of a civilian program. Iran, the world’s fourth largest oil producer, insists it needs nuclear technology to generate electricity.

The U.N. nuclear watchdog body in a report in May expressed “serious concern” over alleged Iranian research into nuclear warheads and said Iran should provide more explanation of questionable missile-related activities.

Iran has so far said it was not the agency’s business “to delve into those allegations”.

Iran says it has home-grown missiles with a range of 2,000 km (1,250 miles), meaning it could hit Israel or U.S. military bases in the Gulf.

Western experts say Iran rarely provides enough details for them to determine the extent of its technological advances, but that much Iranian technology consists of modifications of equipment supplied by China, North Korea and other countries.

Iran has been hit by three rounds of U.N. sanctions for defying demands that it suspend its uranium enrichment program. Six major powers are working on another one.

Taghipour said Iran was planning to build and launch more satellites by 2010.

“We are working on these satellites and gradually they will be put into orbit,” he told the semi-official Mehr news agency.

Writing by Parisa Hafezi; Editing by Sami Aboudi