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Published on Feb 4, 2009
ZHANG: Iran has launched its own satellite, saying it's designed for research and telecommunications. However, the long-range ballistic technology used to put satellites into orbit can also be used for launching nuclear weapons. The launch comes as Western powers are meeting this week to discuss the conflict with Iran over its nuclear program.
STORY: Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad orders the launch of the countries first domestically made satellite into space.
State television showed footage of a rocket blasting off from a firing platform and lighting up the night sky.
The event was timed to coincide with the 30th anniversary of the Islamic revolution that ousted the US-backed Shah.
State media hailed the launch of the Omid - meaning hope - telecommunications satellite as "another achievement for Iranian scientists under sanctions."
Iran is under U.N. and U.S. sanctions because the United States and other Western powers suspect Tehran is amassing the capability to produce nuclear weapons.
Iran insists its nuclear ambitions are entirely peaceful and geared for power generation but the launch of the Omid satellite is bound to deepen Western suspicion over what Tehran's real intentions may be.
The technology used to send satellites into space can also be used for launching weapons.
One Iranian analyst said the launch sent a clear message to the world that Iran is "very powerful" and not to be trifled with.
Ahmadinejad has set tough terms for any talks with the new Obama administration, saying it must change policy not just tactics towards Tehran and apologize for past "crimes" against the Shi'ite state.