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U.S. Concerned Over Iran's Rocket Launch, Linking It To Ballistic-Missile Development

By RFE/RL December 30, 2021

The United States voiced concern on December 30 over Iran's new space launch, saying such activities use technology that can help further its ballistic-missile program.

"The United States remains concerned with Iran's development of space launch vehicles, which pose a significant proliferation concern," a State Department spokesperson said after Iran announced it had launched a rocket carrying three satellites.

The space launch vehicles "incorporate technologies that are virtually identical to, and interchangeable with, those used in ballistic missiles, including longer-range systems," the spokesperson said.

The spokesperson also said the launch violated UN Security Council Resolution 2231, which backed the 2015 nuclear deal and called on Iran not to carry out work on ballistic missiles with the potential to carry nuclear warheads.

Earlier on December 30, Defense Ministry spokesman Ahmad Hosseini said the rocket used was an Iranian Simorgh (Phoenix) rocket and that the payload reached an altitude of 470 kilometers.

It was unclear whether any objects had successfully entered Earth's orbit.

Iran's Tasnim news agency quoted Hosseini as saying the launch was a "space research mission."

He said the "performance of the space center and the performance of the satellite carrier were satisfactory."

State television showed footage of the rocket launching from the Imam Khomeini Spaceport near the northern city of Semnan.

The reported launch comes amid difficult negotiations in Vienna between Tehran and world powers over reviving the nuclear deal aimed at restricting Iran's nuclear program. That deal has been under threat since the United States withdrew from it and reimposed sanctions against Iran in 2018.

One reason the administration of former U.S. President Donald Trump gave for withdrawing from the agreement was concern that it did not restrict Iran's strategic missile program.

Iran has said that it is not seeking to develop nuclear weapons and that its rocket tests do not have military objectives.

European delegates to the talks for weeks have warned that they are close to collapsing. In a joint statement on December 28, they said: "We are clear that we are nearing the point where Iran's escalation of its nuclear program will have completely hollowed out" the 2015 agreement.

Iran's chief negotiator at the talks, Ali Bagheri, said on December 30 that the talks had seen some progress.

"Some written changes on the lifting of sanctions were established between the two parties and relatively satisfactory progress has been made over the first days of the eighth round of negotiations," Bagheri said in a video published by Tasnim.

Negotiations to restore the agreement began earlier this year but were put on hold in June as the Islamic republic held its presidential election, which brought an ultraconservative government led by President Ebrahim Raisi to power. They resumed in late November, and the latest round got under way on December 27.

The nuclear deal offered Iran relief from sanctions that have weighed heavily on its economy. Bagheri said on December 30 that the discussions had recently focused mainly on the lifting of sanctions.

"We hope that after a few days of pause, more serious work will continue on the question of lifting sanctions," he continued.

Talks are due to resume on January 3.

With reporting by AP, Reuters, and AFP

Source: https://www.rferl.org/a/iran-rocket- space-launch/31632917.html

Copyright (c) 2021. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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