Iran announces rocket launch amid nuclear talks

The United States say “Concerned” by this advance. Iran said Thursday, December 30, to have launched into space a rocket carrying three space research devices. “The research objectives planned for this launch have been achieved”, announced Ahmad Hosseini, spokesperson for the Iranian Defense Ministry’s space unit, without giving further details. “This was a preliminary launch and we will have operational launches in the near future”, he promised.

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State television briefly showed footage of a rocket firing from a desert location, welcoming the“Another achievement of Iranian scientists”. Local media did not say where the launch took place.

US media, citing experts and satellite images, explained earlier in December that the Islamic Republic was preparing to launch a rocket from the Semnan space center, some 300 km east of Tehran.

Washington concerns

The United States, for its part, expressed their concerns after this announcement likely, according to them, to benefit Tehran’s ballistics program. Westerners suspect Iran of seeking to develop, using the technology of its satellite launchers, long-range ballistic launchers capable of carrying conventional or nuclear charges.

Iranian development of space launchers “Poses a risk of proliferation”, reacted a spokeswoman for the State Department, who however reaffirmed that Washington “Wish a mutual return to full respect for the agreement” of 2015 aimed at preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.

Thursday’s announcement indeed comes in the midst of talks to save the Vienna Accord. They were relaunched at the end of November after a five-month hiatus between Tehran and the countries still party to the pact (France, United Kingdom, Germany, Russia, China).

The negotiations aim to bring back into the agreement the United States, which had left it in 2018 and had reinstated sanctions against Iran. The United States is participating in the negotiations indirectly.

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Controversial Iranian space program

The agreement, validated by UN Security Council resolution 2231, calls on Tehran to “Not to carry out any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be able to carry nuclear charges, including fire using ballistic missile technology”.

Tehran announced in February that it had tested a new satellite launcher equipped with its ” more powerful “ solid fuel engine. According to the Pentagon and satellite images from the Semnan Space Center, Iran had attempted in mid-June to launch a satellite into space, without success. Tehran, for its part, had denied the failure of the launch.

In February 2020, Iran had failed to put into orbit a scientific observation satellite, dubbed Zafar (“Victory”, in Persian). Its launch was condemned by Paris and Washington, who accused the country of wanting to strengthen its skills in the field of ballistic missiles through the launch of satellites.

Two months later, in April 2020, the Revolutionary Guards, the ideological army of the Islamic Republic, launched their first military satellite. The United States then considered that this launch proved that the Iranian space program was intended for military rather than commercial purposes.

Affirming that it has no intention of acquiring atomic weapons, Tehran assures that its ballistics and space programs do not run counter to resolution 2231.

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The World with AFP