US slams ‘provocative’ Iran satellite-launch rocket test
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US slams ‘provocative’ Iran satellite-launch rocket test

State Department says drill, if confirmed, could be a violation of UN Security Council resolutions

US State Department Spokeswoman Heather Nauert speaks to reporters during a press conference in Washington, DC on June 8, 2017 (screen capture)
US State Department Spokeswoman Heather Nauert speaks to reporters during a press conference in Washington, DC on June 8, 2017 (screen capture)

The United States on Thursday hit out at Iran over its test of a satellite-launch rocket, calling it an act that undermined regional stability and saying it appeared to violate UN Security Council resolutions.

“We consider that to be continued ballistic missile development,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters. “We consider this to be provocative action.”

Nauert added that if confirmed, the test could be a “violation of UN Security Council resolutions.”

Iranian state television broadcast footage of the takeoff from the Imam Khomeini space center, named after the late founder of the Islamic Republic, in Semnan province in the east of the country.

Iranian state television described the launch as involving a “Simorgh” rocket that is capable of carrying a satellite weighing 250 kilograms (550 pounds). The state media report did not elaborate on the rocket’s payload.

“Simorgh” means “phoenix” in Persian.

Iranians take photos of the Simorgh satellite rocket during celebrations to mark the 37th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, in Tehran, February 11, 2016. (AFP/Atta Kenare)
Iranians take photos of the Simorgh satellite rocket during celebrations to mark the 37th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, in Tehran, February 11, 2016. (AFP/Atta Kenare)

The website YJC.ir, which is affiliated with Iranian state television, as well as the semi-official Fars news agency, also reported the launch on Thursday, saying it was successful.

The launch comes as the United States has criticized Iran’s ballistic missile tests.

Such tests are allowed under the 2015 nuclear deal that Iran struck with world powers. However, American officials have argued that they violate United Nations Security Council Resolution 2331, which calls upon Iran “not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such ballistic missile technology.”

Iran has pursued a satellite launch program for years. The US and its allies worry that the same technology could be used to develop long-range missiles.

The country has sent several dummy satellites into orbit over the past decade, and in 2013 launched a monkey into space. But it recently abandoned plans to potentially send humans into orbit, saying in late May that the cost of doing so was prohibitive.

Iran’s satellite-launch program falls under the responsibility of the defense ministry, which has denied that the space program is a cover for weapons development.

The head of Iran’s space agency in October expressed for the first time interest in cooperating with NASA. Iran has offered to share its scientific findings and satellite data with other countries.

In February 2015, Iran announced the launch of a satellite atop a different type of rocket, known as Fajr. That launch happened while Iran was negotiating the nuclear deal.

On Tuesday, the US House of Representatives passed a new sanctions bill on Tuesday targeting Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, as well as Russia and North Korea.

Thursday’s test also came as the Trump administration is pushing for inspections of suspicious Iranian military sites in a bid to test the strength of the nuclear deal that Trump desperately wants to cancel, senior US officials said.

The inspections are one element of what is designed to be a more aggressive approach to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. While the Trump administration seeks to police the existing deal more strictly, it is also working to fix what Trump’s aides have called “serious flaws” in the landmark deal that — if not resolved quickly — will likely lead Trump to pull out.

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