Iran sends monkey into space, showing missile progress



Reuters

Published — Monday 28 January 2013

Last update 28 January 2013 8:49 pm

| نسخة PDF Print News | A A

DUBAI: Iran said on Monday it had launched a live monkey into space, seeking to show off missile delivery systems that are alarming to the West given Tehran’s parallel advances in nuclear technology.
The defense ministry announced the launch as world powers sought to agree a date and venue with Iran for resuming talks to resolve a nuclear standoff with the West before it degenerates into a new Middle East war.
Efforts to nail down a new meeting have failed repeatedly and the powers fear Iran is exploiting the diplomatic vacuum to hone the means to produce nuclear weapons.
The Islamic Republic denies seeking weapons capability and says it seeks only electricity from its uranium enrichment so it can export more of its oil wealth.
The powers have proposed new talks in February, a spokesman for the European Union’s foreign policy chief said on Monday, hours after Russia urged all concerned to “stop behaving like children” and commit to a meeting.
Iran earlier in the day denied media reports of a major explosion at one of its most sensitive, underground enrichment plants, describing them as Western propaganda designed to influence the nuclear talks.
An defense ministry said the space launch of the monkey coincided “with the days of” the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday, which was last week, but gave no date, according to a statement carried by the official news agency IRNA.
The launch was “another giant step” in space technology and biological research “which is the monopoly of a few countries,“
the statement said.
The monkey was sent up in a Kavoshgar rocket dubbed “Pishgam” (Pioneer), reaching a height of more than 120 km (75 miles), IRNA said.
“This shipment returned safely to Earth with the anticipated speed along with the live organism,” Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi told the semi-official Fars news agency. “The launch of Kavoshgar and its retrieval is the first step toward sending humans into space in the next phase.”
Iran’s English-language Press TV displayed photographs of the monkey inside its capsule, but did not say if these were from before or after the launch.
There was no independent confirmation of the launch.
SIGNIFICANT
The West worries that long-range ballistic technology used to propel Iranian satellites into orbit could be put to delivering nuclear warheads.
Bruno Gruselle of France’s Foundation for Strategic Research, said that if the monkey launch report were true it would suggest a “quite significant” engineering feat by Iran.
“If you can show that you are able to protect a vehicle of this sort from re-entry, then you can probably protect a military warhead and make it survive the high temperatures and high pressures of re-entering,” Gruselle said.
The monkey launch would be similar to sending up a satellite weighing some 2,000 kg (4,400 pounds), he said. Success would suggest a capacity to deploy a surface-to-surface missile with a range of a few thousand kilometers (miles).
The Islamic Republic announced plans in 2011 to send a monkey into space, but that attempt was reported to have failed.
Nuclear-weapons capability requires three components — enough fissile material such as highly enriched uranium, a reliable weapons device miniaturised to fit into a missile cone, and an effective delivery system, such as a ballistic missile that can grow out of a space launch program.
Iran’s efforts to develop and test ballistic missiles and build a space launch capability have contributed to Israeli calls for pre-emptive strikes on Iranian nuclear sites and billions of dollars of US ballistic missile defense spending.
MANOEUVRING OVER NEXT TALKS
A spokesman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said the powers had offered a February meeting to Iran, after a proposal to meet at the end of January was refused.
“Iran did not accept our offer to go to Istanbul on Jan. 28 and 29 and so we have offered new dates in February. We have continued to offer dates since December. We are disappointed the Iranians have not yet agreed,” Michael Mann reporters.
He said Iranian negotiators had imposed new conditions for resuming talks and that EU powers were concerned this might be a stalling tactic. The last in a sporadic series of fruitless talks was held last June.
Iranian officials deny blame for the delays and say Western countries squandered opportunities for meetings by waiting until after the US presidential election in November.
“We have always said that we are ready to negotiate until a result is reached and we have never broken off discussions,” IRNA quoted Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi as saying.
Salehi has suggested holding the next round in Cairo but that the powers wanted another venue. He also said that Sweden, Kazakhstan and Switzerland had offered to host the talks.
In Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told a news conference: “We are ready to meet at any location as soon as possible. We believe the essence of our talks is far more important (than the site), and we hope that common sense will prevail and we will stop behaving like little children.”
Ashton is overseeing diplomatic contacts on behalf of the powers hoping to persuade Tehran to stop higher-grade uranium enrichment and accept stricter UN inspections in return for civilian nuclear cooperation and relief from UN sanctions.
IRAN DENIES FORDOW BLAST
Reuters has been unable to verify reports since Friday of an explosion early last week at the underground Fordow bunker, near the holy Shiite Muslim city of Qom, that some Israeli and Western media said wrought heavy damage.
“The false news of an explosion at Fordow is Western propaganda ahead of nuclear negotiations to influence their process and outcome,” IRNA quoted deputy Iranian nuclear energy agency chief Saeed Shamseddin Bar Broudi as saying.
In late 2011 the plant at Fordow began producing uranium enriched to 20 percent fissile purity, well above the 3.5 percent level normally needed for nuclear power stations.
Western governments say the higher-grade enrichment marks a notable step toward weapons-grade uranium, even though it is below the 90 percent level suitable for nuclear bombs.
Iran says its enhanced enrichment is to make fuel for a Tehran research reactor that produces isotopes for medical care.
Diplomats in Vienna, where the UN nuclear watchdog agency is based, said on Monday they had no knowledge of any incident at Fordow but were looking into the reports. One Western diplomat said he did not believe them to be correct.
The UN International Atomic Energy Agency, which regularly inspects Iranian nuclear sites including Fordow, had no immediate comment.
Iran has accused Israel and the United States of trying to sabotage its nuclear program with cyber attacks and assassinations of its nuclear scientists. Washington has denied any role in the killings while Israel has declined to comment.

What's happening around Saudi Arabia

SYDNEY: Amnesty International has demanded that Mustafa Al-Hosawi, a Saudi prisoner at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, be treated for the torture he underwent at the hands of the CIA.The US branch of the organization sent a message to health officials at the...
JEDDAH: The city’s airport staff saved a 20-year-old woman who tried to throw herself from the upper floor to the mezzanine floor in the southern hall. Sources said the suicide attempt was due to family disputes. Administrators said a supervisor in t...
RIYADH: Education Minister Ahmad Al-Issa has ordered to gradually close down private night schools beginning from the current year. The closure of these schools will be complete by 1439H.Al-Issa’s decision is based on reports of a body, which highlig...
RIYADH: A cross-section of Saudi society on Friday denounced the Jazan massacre that shook the nation on Thursday, when a gunman went on the rampage killing seven education officials and injuring several others in Al-Dair governorate.The culprit, ide...
JEDDAH: Maj. Gen. Awad Al-Balawi, head of the Saudi Border Guard, recently confirmed the expansion of the employment program for women within the border security sector. He said that the sector is entering a new phase as women will be employed in a n...
RIYADH: A medical team of the King Abdullah Specialist Children’s Hospital (KASCH) at the King Abdulaziz Medical City (National Guard) here have successfully conducted the first liver transplant on a baby boy. Fahad Mari Said Al-Sairdh, father of the...
JEDDAH: The Makkah Investigation and Prosecution Board reintroduced the crane crash incident to the Riyadh Investigation and Prosecution Board recently, adding 10 more employees and supervisors from different government agencies before the courts. Th...
JEDDAH: The teacher who gunned down seven education officials in Al-Dair governorate on Thursday had been showing behavioral problems in recent days, Al-Janob Misfer Al-Subhan, director of King Faisal Secondary School in Dharan, was quoted as saying...
JEDDAH: The Human Rights Commission (HRC) is investigating the Nakheel Mall case, in which a girl was beaten up by a group of Haia members, an official of the commission has said. “The HRC is supposed to guarantee the rights of those harmed, whoever...
AL-AHSA: King Faisal University (KFU) in Al-Ahsa is currently studying the possibility of admitting female students to specialize in veterinary medicine, the director of the university, Dr. Abdulaziz Al-Saati, confirmed. He said the matter has been p...
JEDDAH: A fingerprinting campaign, titled “Imprint Homeland,” against extremism and terrorism, was launched at the Jeddah corniche on Thursday night. The drive will cover all the 17 regions of Makkah province.The campaign, initiated by the Makkah gov...
RIYADH: The number of unemployed Saudi nationals reached 647,000 by the end of last year, of whom 56 percent, or 363,800, hold bachelor’s degrees or licenses. Female bachelor’s degree and license holders accounted for three-fourths of unemployed Saud...
RIYADH: Four citizens have been arrested in two murder cases, one of which was a road rage. One of the suspects resisted arrest and even opened fire on the police, but no one was injured.According to the Riyadh police, a clinic informed them that it...
MAKKAH: Thirty percent of male middle school students and 23 percent of female students take some form of drugs, a recent scientific study from the National Center for Youth Research confirmed. The study shows drug consumption rates among students in...
RIYADH: Several government departments participating in a campaign to fight breast cancer in the Eastern Province will offer their recommendations to the Ministry of the Interior to include breast cancer checks for women aged 40 and above as part of...

Stay Connected

Facebook