US warns Iran on space launches, Tehran rejects concerns

Iran's FM says its planned space vehicles launches and missile tests do not violate a UN Security Council resolution.

    US warns Iran on space launches, Tehran rejects concerns
    Tehran denies it has missiles designed to carry nuclear warheads [File: David Mdzinarishvili/Reuters]

    Iran has rejected a US warning against carrying out space vehicle launches and missile tests, saying on Thursday they did not violate a UN resolution.

    US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued the pre-emptive warning earlier on Thursday against pursuing three planned space rocket launches that he said would violate a UN Security Council resolution because they use ballistic missile technology.

    But Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif rejected the warning, tweeting that "Iran's launch of space vehicles - & missile tests - are NOT in violation of (Resolution) 2231."

    He added, "The US is in material breach of same, & as much it is in no position to lecture anyone on it."

    Pompeo had said Iran planned to launch in the coming months three rockets, called Space Launch Vehicles (SLV), that he said incorporate technology "virtually identical" to what is used in intercontinental ballistic missiles.

    "The United States will not stand by and watch the Iranian regime's destructive policies place international stability and security at risk," Pompeo said in a statement. 

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    "We advise the regime to reconsider these provocative launches and cease all activities related to ballistic missiles in order to avoid deeper economic and diplomatic isolation."

    Iranian Deputy Defence Minister General Qassem Taqizadeh in late November was quoted by Iranian media as saying that Iran would soon launch into space three satellites made by domestic experts.

    Pompeo said the rocket launches would violate UN Security Council Resolution 2231, which endorsed a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers. It calls upon Iran not to undertake activities related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons but does not explicitly bar such activity.

    Final touches on satellite

    Iran has repeatedly rejected US accusations about its ballistic missile tests, including the firing of space launchers. Tehran denies it has missiles designed to carry nuclear warheads.

    Pompeo said Iran has launched ballistic missiles numerous times since the UN resolution was adopted. He said it test-fired a medium-range ballistic missile capable of carrying multiple warheads on December 1.

    US President Donald Trump last year walked out of the Iran deal, which was negotiated by his predecessor Barack Obama, instead reimposing sweeping sanctions aimed at crippling the country's economy.

    European powers still support the accord, noting that Iran is in compliance while sharing concerns about missiles. 

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    In July 2017, Iran launched a Simorgh (Phoenix) rocket it said could deliver a satellite into space, an act the US State Department called provocative. Earlier that month, the US imposed new economic sanctions on Iran over its ballistic missile programme.

    Iran's Amirkabir University of Technology said on Tuesday that it was putting the final touches to the Payam (Message) satellite, which it said was equipped with four cameras and could be used for agricultural, forestry and other peaceful purposes, the semi-official Fars news agency reported.

    The satellite, weighing about 100 kg (220 pounds), is to be launched by a state-run space centre into an orbit of 500 km (300 miles) with a Simorgh, the ISNA news agency reported.

    Iranian media reports said the Payam launch may coincide with celebrations in early February marking the 40th anniversary of Iran's Islamic revolution.

    SOURCE: News agencies