Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif confirmed that Tehran attempted a second satellite launch earlier this month despite US criticism that its space program is helping to develop ballistic missiles.
In an interview with NBC news screened Friday, Zarif said it was “quite possible” the United States was sabotaging the Iranian space program.
“We don’t know yet,” he said. “We need to look into it very carefully.”
Zarif said Tehran was already investigating the failed satellite launches in January and February, but was now “looking into the specifics” of a sabotage campaign following a report in The New York Times this week.
Current and former US officials told the Times the Trump administration had accelerated a George W. Bush-era program to sabotage Iran’s development of rockets and missiles.
Last week, images released by Colorado-based company DigitalGlobe showed that rockets previously spotted at the Imam Khomeini Space Center were gone, with what appeared to be burn marks on its launch pad.
The US alleges such launches defy a UN Security Council resolution prohibiting Iran from engaging in activity related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear warheads.
Iran maintains its satellite launches and rocket tests do not have a military component. Tehran also says they don’t violate a United Nations resolution that only “called upon” it not to conduct such tests.
Over the past decade, Iran has sent several short-lived satellites into orbit and in 2013 launched a monkey into space.
Iran usually displays space achievements in February during the anniversary of its 1979 Islamic Revolution. This year marks the 40th anniversary of the revolution amid Iran facing increasing pressure from the administration of US President Donald Trump, which has adopted a hawkish policy toward the Islamic republic.
This week, US Vice President Mike Pence demanded America’s European NATO allies drop the nuclear deal with Iran and join it in seeking to cripple the regime. The EU rejected the demand on Friday.
At a US-led conference on the Middle East hosted by Poland, Pence accused Iran of plotting a “new Holocaust” with its opposition to Israel and regional ambitions in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Yemen.
In the interview aired Friday, Zarif said the “same gang” that was behind the 2003 Iraq War were “at it again” by pushing for war with Iran.
“I’m not saying President Trump’s administration, I’m saying people in President Trump’s administration are trying to create the same eventuality and I believe they will fail,” Zarif told NBC.
Though Zarif expressed hope that “some sense will prevail,” he warned that “people will find out that it’s suicidal to engage in a war with Iran.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.