VOA – The United States has imposed its first-ever sanctions against Iran’s space agency, accusing it of disguising a missile program.
“The United States will not allow Iran to use its space launch program as cover to advance its ballistic missile program,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Tuesday.
The new sanctions affect the Iran Space Agency, the Iran Space Research Center, and the Aeronautics Research Institute.
Any assets these entities have in the United States are blocked, and U.S. citizens are barred from doing business with them.
The U.S. says Iranian space launch vehicle technology is “virtually identical and interchangeable with those used in ballistic missiles,” including ways of controlling a missile during its flight.
The U.S. also warns the “international scientific community that collaborating with Iran on space launch vehicles could contribute to its ballistic missile program.”
Iran says its space program is aimed at building rockets to launch telecommunications satellites. Iran has fired two such satellites into orbit since 2013. But three other attempts this year have failed, including one rocket that blew up on the launch pad last week.
A U.N. Security Council endorsing the 2015 international agreement that limited Iran’s nuclear program calls on Iran not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles that could be used to deliver nuclear weapons.
Also Tuesday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said he will not hold bilateral talks with the United States.
Rouhani told Parliament the only way his government would meet with Washington is if all U.S. sanctions are dropped and the other parties to the 2015 nuclear deal are present.
President Donald Trump has said there is a “really good chance” he and Rouhani would talk. Trump hopes to be able to renegotiate the 2015 deal after pulling the U.S. out last year and reimposing sanctions that have hurt Iran’s economy.
Iran has already backed away from some parts of the nuclear agreement and is threatening to increase its uranium enrichment unless the remaining signatories to the deal — Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia, and the European Union — provide economic relief from the sanctions.