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Iran launches space rocket

Definitely not a missile. Honest.

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Iran distracted attention from its nuclear programme this weekend, by announcing it had shot off a rocket into space. Or, according to who you believe, it had tested a dirty great missile.

The Islamic Republic definitely launched something over the weekend. Iranian media described the device as a rocket capable of reaching space.

However, Iran later appeared to downplay the significance of the launch, saying the rocket launch was for research purposes only, and that the rocket was not in orbit. Officials pointedly denied it had launched a "missile".

Some Iranian media apparently implied the rocket could be used to put commercial satellites into orbit. If it can be used to put commercial satellites up, presumably spy satellites will be a breeze.

Iran presumably would like to keep more than one eye in the sky as expectations rise that the US is planning an attack on the country amidst concerns it is close to producing nuclear weapons.

Either way, the launch is unlikely to dampen down international tensions. According to hawkish types, if Iran has a rocket that is able to put something reasonably large into orbit, by definition it also has an ICBM capable of dropping something reasonably large anywhere in the world.

The permanent members of the UN Security Council together with Germany are meeting in London today to discuss further sanctions against Iran over the nuclear issue. ®

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