Friday, April 15, 2005

Iran seeks admission to UN's high-res satellite network

Iran wants to join a United Nations satellite network that produces high resolution imagery.

Western diplomatic sources said Teheran has requested participation in a UN-funded satellite network for border security. The sources said the Islamic republic has cited its war against drug trafficking from neighboring Afghanistan.

"The Iranians have made a good case for joining the program," a diplomatic source said. "But the United States believes that Iran will use the satellite to spy on the U.S. military in Afghanistan and Iraq." READ MORE

[Iran has announced plans to launch three satellites, including a reconnaissance facility, over the next year, Middle East Newsline reported. Russia was said to be a leading contractor in the project.]

The proposed satellite network would focus on Afghanistan and the surrounding region. The sources said the UN satellites would provide high-resolution imagery meant to monitor borders and detect the movement of drug traffickers.

The satellite proposal has been drafted by the UN Office for Outer Space Affairs, based in Vienna, and meant to cover Afghanistan, Iran and Iraq. But under U.S. pressure, the sources said, the UN satellite program has been shelved.

Iran has already received Western security and military equipment ordered by its anti-drug program. They included delivery of 250 night vision goggles and 1,000 body armor sets from Britain and mobile global positioning systems and computers from France.

The UN office has already trained Iranian representatives in global navigation satellite system [GNSS] technologies. In May 2004, the Iran Space Agency and European Space Agency organized a UN workshop on environmental security.

[On Wednesday, the Washington Post reported that Iran has withdrawn virtually all of its troops from Lebanon. The Post quoted U.S. officials as saying that Iran has between 12 and 50 military trainers in Lebanon.]