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Iran to launch communication satellite by 2011

TEHRAN (AP/PTI): Iran plans to launch a communications satellite by late 2011 with no outside help, a top Iranian official has said, after Italy and Russia declined to put it into orbit.

The move reflected Tehran's frustration with the two countries as it tries to push ahead with an ambitious space programme, which has worried world powers because the same rocket technology used to launch satellites can also be used for military purposes.

Israeli media have claimed that the new Iranian satellite, named Misbah, or "Lantern" in Farsi, is a spy satellite. Iran says the satellite, which is to be launched into a low-earth orbit, is to assist in data communication.

Telecommunications Minister Reza Taqipour touted the decision to launch the satellite as a show of Iran's progress in space technology.

"Our capability to launch a satellite has increased ...we hope to launch Mesbah satellite-2 ourselves" by the end of 2011, Taqipour said, according to the semi-official Fars news agency.

Earlier this month, the head of Iran's Aero Space Industries, Gen Mahdi Farahi, announced Tehran would use Italy to launch Mesbah after waiting for years in vain for Russia to do the job. But Italy's Carlo Gavazzi Space company promptly denied the report, saying it does not have the capabilities to put Misbah in orbit.

Iran launched a domestically made satellite -- called Omid, or "Hope" in Farsi -- using an Iranian rocket for the first time in February. In 2005, its first satellite was launched by Russia, which has been a partner in transferring space technology to Iran along with North Korea and China.

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