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Iran Building Seven More Satellites, Minister Says

The launch of Iran's Omid satellite on February 3
TEHRAN (Reuters) -- Iran is building seven more satellites, the telecommunications minister was quoted as saying, less than two weeks after the country sent its first domestically produced satellite into space.

Iran launched a research and telecommunications satellite called Omid on February 3, a step that worried Western powers who fear the Islamic Republic is seeking to build a nuclear bomb and missile delivery systems.

Iran, the world's fourth-largest oil producer, says its nuclear work is to generate electricity, and the satellite launch was for peaceful purposes.

The long-range ballistic technology used to put satellites into orbit could also be used to launch warheads.

Telecommunications Minister Mohammad Soleimani told reporters Iranian scientists were manufacturing seven more satellites, the semi-official Fars News Agency said, without giving details on when they might be launched.

"Of these satellites, four are for use in low altitudes and weigh under 100 kilograms...Three other satellites capable of operating just below 36,000 kilometers are also being built by Iranian scientists," he said.

The same minister was last week quoted as saying Iran was building four more satellites, but it was not immediately clear whether he was then only referring to those to be sent into a low orbit.

Fars News Agency also quoted him as saying that Omid, which means "hope" in Persian, was performing its mission successfully. State media had earlier said Omid would return to Earth with data after orbiting for one to three months.

"The Omid satellite is currently carrying out its mission successfully, being one of the country's biggest achievements," Soleimani said.

The head of Iran's space organization, Reza Taghipour, was quoted by the "Khorassan" newspaper on February 12 as saying Iran was also taking initial steps toward launching a manned space mission but he made clear this was still years away.