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Iranian satellite launched with China, Thailand

Telecommunications satellite could boost cooperation

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A joint research satellite of China, Iran and Thailand was launched on a Chinese rocket on Sunday aimed at boosting cooperation on natural disasters such as earthquakes, an Iranian minister said on Sunday.

The announcement came just a few weeks after Iran said on Aug. 17 it had put a dummy satellite into orbit on a domestically made rocket for the first time. U.S. officials said the attempted launch was a failure.

Telecommunications Minister Mohammad Soleimani said the three countries had worked together on the satellite which he said was equipped with cameras.

Successful launch

"This morning it was launched successfully and it was placed into orbit," Soleimani told state television, without giving details.

"Iran and China and regional countries are countries which have a lot of natural disasters," he said. "God willing, we can have good activities in the direction of aerospace research."

China is among six world powers seeking to convince Iran to halt nuclear work the West fears is aimed at making bombs, but it has been reluctant to consider steps that might hurt its energy ties with the world's fourth-largest oil exporter.

Iran caused international concern in February by testing a domestically made rocket as part of its satellite program, the Explorer 1. It said it needed two more similar tests before putting a satellite made domestically into orbit.

Dual-use technology

The long-range ballistic technology used to put satellites into space can also be used for launching weapons.

The West believes Tehran is seeking to develop more advanced missile technology so it can launch atomic warheads. Iran denies any such intention and says its nuclear program is peaceful.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who visited Beijing on Saturday, last month said Iran planned to launch a telecommunications satellite.

The head of Iran's aerospace organization, Reza Taghipour, has said Iran was working with Russia and other Asian states to launch a satellite and also that it would cooperate with Islamic states in building one.