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Iran leader says scientific progress thriving despite sanctions

The Islamic Republic has achieved breakthroughs in space and nuclear technology in the face of international penalties, supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei says.

February 08, 2009|Associated Press

TEHRAN — Iran has achieved breakthroughs in nuclear and space technology despite international sanctions against it, the country's top leader said Saturday.

Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei told military commanders that instead of weakening Iran, sanctions by the United States, the United Nations and others have forced it to become more self-reliant, leading to greater strides by Iranian scientists and to technological advancements unseen in the country's history.

Iranian leaders often boast of technological progress as they seek to assure their people that sanctions and isolation have not hurt the country, even as the unemployment and inflation rates increase.

The U.S. imposed sanctions against Iran soon after the 1979 Islamic Revolution, which toppled Washington-backed Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi and brought hard-line clerics to power. The sanctions banned the export of any dual-use technology, including nuclear, space and missile equipment. Over the years, Washington has tightened sanctions against investment in Iran.

Since 2006, Iran has also been under U.N. Security Council sanctions, applied to its nuclear and missile industries, for refusing to halt uranium enrichment, a technology that can be used to produce fuel for nuclear power plants or the material for atomic bombs.

The U.S. and others accuse Iran of seeking to build nuclear weapons. Iran says its nuclear program is geared toward generating electricity, not weapons production.

Last week, Iran sent its first domestically made satellite, called the Omid, or "hope" in Persian, into orbit using an Iranian-built rocket. Analysts described it as a key step for an ambitious space program that worries the U.S. and others because the same rocket technology used to launch satellites can also deliver warheads.

"It was from the depth of various kinds of sanctions imposed on Iran for years that the Omid satellite came into existence and was sent into orbit," state TV quoted Khamenei as saying. "And it was out of all restrictions imposed against the Iranian nation that [Iran] achieved uranium enrichment technology, which is in the hands of a few powerful countries."

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