New Iran space center nearly complete -- officials


Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad speaks during the unveiling ceremony of new satellite rocket in Tehran on February 3, 2010.


Rohollah Vahdati

Iranian officials today announced that the country's first satellite-equipped space center is almost complete, The Associated Press cited Iranian state media as saying

Iranian Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi said the project -- named after Islamic Republic founder and former Supreme Leader Imam Khomeini -- is now 80 percent complete, said The Tehran Times.

The space center will be able to launch satellites made by Iran and other Islamic countries, said Vahidi, according to AP

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The remarks are the first confirmation of the space center's existence, but its location remains unknown, said AP

The announcement also comes as Iran prepares to mark the anniversary of Khomeini's death, according to Tehran Times.

Iran's space plans have raised concerns in the West because the rocket technology required for the space center is similar to that of producing intercontinental warheads, according to AP, adding to a long-simmering dispute between Iran and the West over the Islamic Republic's controversial nuclear program.

The West says Iran's nuclear program will be used to make a bomb, a charge the Islamic Republic denies.