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Iran celebrates launch of satellite

Iran has launched a satellite into earth orbit, state television reported, in a feat that is likely to raise concerns among those who fear Tehran's intentions and nuclear development programme.

The report said the locally produced satellite, called Rasad, or observation, was launched successfully by a Safir missile on Wednesday.

It would be the second satellite Iran has put into orbit. The first, named Omid, was launched in 2009.

The Iranian TV report said the new satellite is designed to produce high resolution maps. There was no independent confirmation of the launch or of the satellite achieving orbit.

Iran's decade-long space programme has raised alarms in the West, because the same technology that allows missiles to launch satellites can be used to fire warheads.

Israel, the US and others accuse Iran of trying to develop nuclear weapons. Iran denies that.

The TV report said the Rasad satellite, developed by Iran's aerospace agency, weighs 34lb and has been designed to orbit the earth 15 times a day at the height of 160 miles.

"Our glorious scientists successfully put Iran's first image-collecting satellite into orbit," the TV report said.

Iran has made a series of claims about advances in its ambitious space programme in recent years, which has Western powers worried about the possibility of its military applications. Last year, Iran announced it had successfully launched a rocket carrying a mouse, turtle and worms into space.

Iran has said it wants to put its own satellites into orbit to monitor natural disasters in the earthquake-prone nation and improve its telecommunications. Iranian officials also point to America's use of satellites to monitor conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq and say they need similar capabilities for their security.

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