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Iran says puts new military satellite in orbit

A picture released by Iran's defence ministry shows a Simorgh (Phoenix) rocket ready for launch from an undisclosed desert location
— Tehran (AFP)

Iran announced Tuesday it had successfully placed a military satellite in orbit, as talks on reviving a 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and major powers reach a critical stage.

"Iran's second military satellite -- named Nour-2 -- has been launched into space by the Qassed rocket of the aerospace wing of the Revolutionary Guards and successfully placed in orbit 500 kilometres (310 miles) above the Earth," the official IRNA news agency reported.

The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps described the Nour-2 as a "reconnaissance satellite" in a statement on its Sepah News website.

It said the satellite was launched from the Shahroud desert in Semnan province, some 300 kilometres (200 miles) east of the capital.

Telecommunications Minister Issa Zarepour hailed the successful launch.

"The first signals from Nour-2 have been successfully received by ground stations," he said in statement on IRNA.

"This reconnaissance satellite will orbit the Earth every 90 minutes, and its mission will last at least three years."

The United States has repeatedly voiced concern that such launches could boost Iran's ballistic missile technology.

But Iran insists it is not seeking nuclear weapons and that its satellite and rocket launches are for civil or defensive purposes only.

Iran successfully put its first military satellite into orbit in April 2020, drawing a sharp rebuke from Washington.

Sepah News said Tuesday that the Nour-1 was "still fully operational and transmitting data".

At the end of December, Iran announced it had failed to put in orbit "three research cargos" carried by Simorgh (Phoenix) satellite carrier as the rocket was unable to reach the required speed.

In January, Iran tested a solid-fuel rocket for its satellite programme, state media reported.

- Nuclear talks -

Major powers involved in talks on bringing Washington back into the Iran nuclear deal after then president Donald Trump's 2018 withdrawal have said that an agreement is close.

Iran and the UN nuclear watchdog said Saturday they had agreed an approach for resolving key outstanding issues but new Russian demands stemming from the Ukraine conflict may delay a deal.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Saturday that, before it backs a revived deal, Moscow wants written assurances from Washington that Western sanctions imposed over the Ukraine war will not affect its economic and military cooperation with Tehran.

The following day, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said such demands were "irrelevant". Sanctions on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine "have nothing to do with the Iran nuclear deal", he said.

The Russian demands have cast doubts on whether negotiations in Vienna, which have reached critical stages, could be concluded swiftly.

As with the original agreement, Moscow is expected to play a key role in the implementation of any fresh deal with Tehran, for example by receiving shipments of enriched uranium from Iran.

Formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the 2015 deal gave Iran sanctions relief in exchange for curbs on its nuclear activities to guarantee it could not develop a weapons capability -- an ambition it has staunchly denied.

But Washington's withdrawal from the accord and its reimposition of biting economic sanctions prompted Tehran to begin rolling back on its own commitments.

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