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Iran Reports Test Of Satellite Launcher As Diplomats Announce Restart Of Nuclear Talks

By RFE/RL June 26, 2022

Iran says it has tested its Zuljanah satellite launcher for a second time ahead of the expected start of talks to revive the Iran nuclear deal.

State-run media on June 26 broadcast footage of the rocket blasting off, and Ahmad Hosseini, spokesman for Iran's Defense Ministry, said the 25.5-meter-long rocket was capable of carrying a satellite that would ultimately gather data in low-Earth orbit and promote Iran's space industry.

"The second launch of the Zuljanah satellite carrier has taken place in order to achieve the predetermined research objectives," said Hosseini, according to state news agency IRNA.

It was not clear when or where the rocket was launched. Earlier this month, Hosseini said the ministry planned three test launches, including one that had already been carried out.

The White House said it was aware of Iran's announcement and criticized the move as "unhelpful and destabilizing."

The launch comes a day after European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell traveled to Tehran in a push to resuscitate negotiations over Iran's nuclear program.

Borrell announced on June 25 that talks over the nuclear deal would resume in the coming days in a Persian Gulf country.

Borrell did not name the country, but RFE/RL reported on June 26 that the Secretariat of the Supreme National Security Council had reported that "given Qatar's continued efforts to resume talks on lifting sanctions, Doha has a chance to host future talks."

Iranian media also reported that Qatar would likely host the negotiations.

Tehran has long asserted that its satellite program is aimed at scientific research and civilian goals and does not breach the 2015 nuclear deal. But Western critics are skeptical of the claims because some of the same technology used in satellite launches can be used in the development of long-range missiles.

A previous test of the Zuljanah took place in February 2021. At the time, Iran said the new satellite-carrying rocket could reach an altitude of 500 kilometers.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi on June 25 repeated his hopes that Tehran could successfully negotiate in EU-brokered talks an end to international sanctions, including through restoration of the nuclear pact with world powers.

During his visit to Tehran, Borrell met with Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, who described the meeting as "long, but positive," but said Iran was prepared to resume talks with world powers in the coming days.

"What is important for Iran is to fully receive the economic benefits of the 2015 accord," he said.

Under the deal, Iran agreed to limits on its controversial nuclear program in exchange for relief from punitive sanctions imposed by the West. But the arrangement began to fall apart when the U.S. President Donald Trump pulled out of the deal in 2018.

Washington subsequently reimposed crippling sanctions on Tehran, while the Iranian government, which denies that its nuclear program seeks to build a bomb, backed away from some of the commitments laid out in the deal.

Iran has been engaged for more than a year in negotiations with Britain, Germany, France, Russia, and China directly -- and the United States, indirectly -- to revive the deal.

Negotiators were reportedly close to a new agreement but the talks in Vienna abruptly stalled in April, with Tehran and Washington blaming each other for failing to take the necessary political decisions to settle remaining issues.

With reporting by RFE/RL's Radio Farda, Reuters, AP, and AFP

Source: https://www.rferl.org/a/iran-satellite- launcher-test-zuljanah/31915794.html

Copyright (c) 2022. 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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