Iran said on Tuesday it has launched its first home-built satellite into orbit, raising fresh concerns among world powers already at odds with Tehran over its nuclear drive.White House spokesman Peter Griffin gave this fumbling response.
"Dear Iranians, your children have put the first indigenous satellite into orbit," a jubilant President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on state television after a launch coinciding with the 30th anniversary of the Islamic revolution.
"With this launch the Islamic Republic of Iran has officially achieved a presence in space," he said.
The Omid (Hope) satellite was sent into space on Monday evening carried by the home-built Safir-2 space rocket, local news agencies reported.
In the first foreign reaction, France expressed concern because the technology used was "very similar" to that employed in ballistic missiles.
"We can't but link this to the very serious concerns about the development of military nuclear capacity," foreign ministry spokesman Eric Chevallier said in Paris.
In Washington, State Department spokesman Robert Wood said the satellite programme could "possibly lead to the development of ballistic missiles." "That's of great concern to us," he said.
In London, British Foreign Office Minister Bill Rammell voiced "serious concerns" over the launch.
"This test underlines and illustrates our serious concerns about Iran's intentions," Rammell said in a statement issued by the Foreign Office, adding that Britain was still carrying out technical analyses.
The launch comes at at time when Iran is defiantly refusing UN Security Council demands to freeze sensitive nuclear work.
The West suspects Iran of secretly trying to build an atomic bomb and fears the technology used to launch a space rocket could be diverted into development of long-range ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads.
Iran vehemently denies the charges, saying its nuclear programme is for peaceful energy purposes and that it has the right to the technology already in the hands of many other nations including its archfoe the United States.
Ahmadinejad said the satellite carried a message of "peace and brotherhood" to the world and dismissed suggestions that Iran's space programme had military goals.
"We have a divine view of technology unlike the dominating powers of the world who have Satanic views," he said.
The United States will use "all elements of our national power" to deal with Iran, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Tuesday after Tehran said it had launched a satellite into orbit.