Iran launches 1st domestically made satellite: state media

Iran said it launched its first domestically made satellite into space, a development that comes a day before Western countries are to hold talks about Tehran's nuclear program.
This photo released by the Fars News Agency claims to show an Iranian satellite launching rocket named Safir-2, carrying the satellite Omid, left, photographed prior to launch at an undisclosed location on Monday. ((Fars News Agency/Associated Press))
Iran said it launched its first domestically made satellite into space, a development that comes a day before Western countries are to hold talks about Tehran's nuclear program.

Iranian state television reported the launch of the Omid ("hope" in Farsi) satellite Monday night. State media said the satellite, sent into space attached to a Safir-2 rocket, is for communications and research purposes, and will return to Earth after orbiting for three months.

The launch, which had been planned for months, was scheduled to coincide with the 30-year anniversary of the Islamic revolution that deposed the U.S.-backed shah in 1979.

"Dear Iranian nation, your children have placed the first indigenous satellite into orbit," Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said in a televised message.

"With God's help and the desire for justice and peace, the official presence of the Islamic Republic was registered in space," he said.

A senior official with the United States military told the Associated Press that a rocket in space had been detected. But the official, who requested anonymity, could not say whether a satellite was attached to the rocket.

In 2005, Iran launched its first commercial satellite on a Russian rocket in a joint project with Moscow. Also in 2005, the government said it had allocated $625 million for space projects in the next five years. Iran hopes to launch three more satellites by 2010, the government has said.

Iran not 'acting responsibly': White House

Experts have said it is hard to pin down exactly how advanced Iran's space program is, as few details are available. But Western states have voiced concerns that the technology developed in the program may be adapted for use on a long-range missile or nuclear weapon.

The White House said Iran is not acting responsibly with its satellite launch.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Tuesday that Iran's launch of its first domestically made satellite "does not convince us that Iran is acting responsibly to advance stability or security in the region."

"Efforts to develop missile-delivery capability, efforts that continue on an illicit nuclear program, or threats that Iran makes toward Israel and its sponsorship of terror are of acute concern to this administration," Gibbs told reporters.

Speaking after Monday's launch, French Foreign Ministry spokesperson Eric Chevallier told the Associated Press that France is "worried that there [are] ... development capabilities that can be used in the ballistic framework."

Britain, the United States, China, France, Germany and Russia will send representatives to Frankfurt on Wednesday to hold talks on how to deal with Iran's nuclear ambitions. Iran is trying to develop a nuclear program, which it says it plans to harness for peaceful purposes only.

The six countries have offered Iran a package of incentives if it suspends uranium enrichment and enters into talks on its nuclear program. The UN Security Council has also imposed sanctions to pressure Iran to comply.

U.S. President Barack Obama has indicated that while he sees the prospect of a nuclear-capable Iran as a threat, he is willing to hold talks with the country.

Ahmadinajad, who reportedly sent Obama a letter congratulating him on his election, has said the U.S. must apologize for "crimes they have committed against the Iranian nation." He has refused to stop uranium enrichment, saying his country has the right under the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty to produce nuclear fuel.

With files from the Associated Press