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US Accuses Iran of Using Space Agency to Develop Missiles

And in a first, imposes sanctions on the agency
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Sep 3, 2019 3:48 PM CDT
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This satellite image from Planet Labs Inc., that has been annotated by experts at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at Middlebury Institute of International Studies, shows a fire at a rocket launch pad at the Imam Khomeini Space Center in Iran's Semnan province, Aug. 29, 2019.   (Planet Labs Inc, Middlebury Institute of International Studies via AP)
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(Newser) – The Trump administration imposed sanctions Tuesday on Iran's space agency for the first time, accusing it of developing ballistic missiles under the cover of a civilian program to launch satellites into orbit, the AP reports. The sanctions announced by the State and Treasury departments targeting the agency and two of its affiliates follow the explosion Thursday of a rocket at Iran's Imam Khomeini Space Center in what an Iranian official said was a technical malfunction during a test. Following the explosion, President Trump tweeted a surveillance image depicting the apparent aftermath of the incident and declared that the US had nothing to do with what transpired at the launch site. With the latest sanctions, the Trump administration can subject foreign companies and governments, including international space cooperation organizations, to penalties if they have any involvement with the Iranian space agency. They would also freeze any of the agency's assets in US jurisdictions, though there aren't likely to be any given the state of relations between the two nations.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the "urgency of the threat" was underscored by Iran's recent attempt to launch a space vehicle. "The United States will not allow Iran to use its space launch program as cover to advance its ballistic missile programs," he said in a statement announcing the sanctions. Officials said the move was not directly related to last week's explosion but that the surveillance image provided evidence of the US assertion that the Iranian space program is used to develop missiles, including ones capable of carrying nuclear warheads or other weapons of mass destruction over long distances. Iran insists it is developing rockets to launch satellites into space, which it has done twice since 2013. The explosion marked the third failure involving a rocket at the Iranian center, which has raised suspicions of sabotage in Iran's space program.

(Read more Iran stories.)

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