'Significant concern': UK condemns Iran ballistic missile launch

Iran sent first military satellite into space on Wednesday from a previously unused launchpad and with a new system.

    The United Kingdom said on Friday that an Iranian satellite launch earlier this week was of significant concern and inconsistent with a United Nations Security Council resolution.

    "Reports that Iran has carried out a satellite launch - using ballistic missile technology - are of significant concern and inconsistent with UN Security Council Resolution 2231," a Foreign Office spokesman said.

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    "The UN has called upon Iran not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons. Iran must abide by this.

    "We have significant and long-standing concerns, alongside our international partners, over Iran's ballistic missile programme, which is destabilising for the region and poses a threat to regional security."

    Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) surprised analysts by sending its first military satellite into space on Wednesday from a previously unused launchpad and with a new system.

    While Iran stresses that its programme is peaceful, Western nations fear it will help the country build intercontinental ballistic missiles.

    State television on Thursday said Iran received signals from the satellite, without elaborating.

    France said Thursday that it strongly condemns the launch and called on Tehran to "immediately halt any activity related to the development of ballistic missiles designed to be able to carry nuclear weapons, including space launch vehicles."

    A government statement said: "Given that the technology used for space launches is very similar to that used for ballistic missile launches, this launch directly contributes to the extremely troubling progress made by Iran in its ballistic missile programme."

    Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova meanwhile rejected assertions that the launch violated the UN Security Council's resolution on Iran, noting that Iran has the right to develop its space program for peaceful purposes.

    Iranian General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, head of the IRGC's aerospace division, told state television that ground stations in Iran are communicating with the satellite, which takes about a week to reach its full capacity.

    He said, without elaborating, that the IRGC plans to send more such satellites into even higher orbits in the future.

    SOURCE: News agencies