Iran: Satellite launch is 'source of pride'
Iran's president has hailed the launch of its first satellite into orbit as a "source of pride" for the Islamic republic, according to state-run news outlets, CNN reported.
The United States has confirmed that Iran launched a low-earth orbit satellite on Monday night, two U.S. officials told CNN's Barbara Starr. There were no indications of any weapons activity on the two-stage rocket, although the rocket is capable of launching long-range weapons, the officials said.
"I wouldn't think of this in terms of highly advanced technology," one U.S. official said. But it does raise questions about the improving reliability of Iran's two-stage rockets.
The reported launch of the satellite Omid, which means Hope, on Monday night was timed to coincide with the 30th anniversary of the victory of the Islamic revolution, according to Iranian media reports.
Iran said the satellite had already completed its first mission -- to transmit a message from Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who spoke at the launching ceremony Monday night.
In his message, Ahmadinejad congratulated Iran and said the successful launch improved Iran's status in the world, the Islamic Republic News Agency reported.
He stressed that both the satellite and the Safir rocket used to launch it were made entirely by Iranian technicians.
The Omid intended to test telecommunications equipment, state TV said, adding that it was "another achievement for Iranian scientists under sanctions."
Iranian Defense Minister Mostafa Mohammad Najjar said that despite the small size of the Omid satellite, it will open the way for an Iranian space program. He said Tehran plans to launch another satellite in the future.
In August, Iran performed a test of a rocket capable of launching a satellite into orbit. Iranian officials declared that mission a success, but U.S. officials disputed that.
Senior U.S. officials had expressed concerned about the test of the rocket, saying Iran could use the rocket to deliver warheads, something that Tehran denies.
Monday's launch comes a day before a meeting by Western powers on Iran in Frankfurt, Reuters.com reported.
Envoys from the United States, Russia, Britain, France, Germany and China are due to meet on Wednesday to discuss Iran's nuclear program.
The reported satellite launch may irritate U.S. President Barack Obama, who has said he sees Iran as a threat but wants direct talks with its leaders.
However his administration has warned Iran to expect more pressure if it does not meet the U.N. Security Council demand to halt uranium enrichment.
Last week at the World Economic Forum Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said Tehran stood ready to work with President Obama to establish better relations with Washington.