London, Aug 18: Iran's announcement that it has sent a rocket carrying a dummy satellite into space on Sunday, Aug 17 is likely to further exacerbate tensions with the West over its nuclear drive, reports The Telegraph.
'The Safir (Ambassador) rocket was successfully launched. All its systems...are Iranian-made, 'the paper quoted Reza Taghipour, the head of Iran's space agency, as telling state television, adding that a "test satellite was put into orbit.' "We have paved the way for placing a satellite in space in future," state television said, showing images of the pre-dawn rocket launch that was watched by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Western governments, already concerned over Iran's nuclear activities, have warned that the technology used in the Islamic republic's space programme could be diverted to military use, a claim denied by Tehran.
"The Iranian development and testing of rockets is troubling and raises further questions about their intentions," White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said, adding "This action and dual use possibilities for their ballistic missile program are inconsistent with their UN Security Council obligations."
Iran has pursued a space programme for several years, and in October 2005 a Russian-made Iranian satellite named Sina-1 was put into orbit by a Russian rocket. Iran claims it wants to put its own satellites into orbit to monitor natural disasters in the earthquake-prone nation and improve its telecommunications.
Iran also said that it has increased the range of its warplanes, allowing them to fly as far as Israel and back without refuelling.
State TV quoted Air Force Chief Gen. Ahmad Mighani as saying that Iranian warplanes can now fly 3,000 kilometers (1,865 miles) without refuelling. He didn't specify the aircraft type or explain how the range was extended.
Such a range could be achieved by using external fuel tanks attached to the wings or fuselage that can be released when empty.
Sunday's report did not refer to Israel by name, but Mighani's remarks come after an Israeli air exercise in June that US officials described as a possible rehearsal for a strike on Iran's nuclear facilities.