Iran invites Turkey into space program

ISTANBUL – Iran has invited Turkey to cooperate in work on Tehran’s space program, which aims to put a man in space by 2017, the Turkish newspaper Haberturk said Saturday.
Western countries which suspect Iran is trying to build nuclear bombs are concerned the long-range ballistic technology used to propel Iranian satellites into orbit could be used to launch atomic warheads. Tehran denies such suggestions.
Pro-business Haberturk said Turkey had not responded to the proposal. Turkish officials were unavailable for comment, and there was no immediate comment from Tehran.
Iran regards its space program, which test-launched a satellite rocket earlier this year, as a matter of national pride.
The reported proposal to cooperate on the sensitive programme would underscore growing trust between Turkey and Iran as the states seek to strengthen diplomatic and business ties.
Haberturk said the offer was made at a summit of business leaders and government officials earlier this week as part of a raft of business deals.
Iran, the world’s fifth-largest oil exporter, insists its nuclear program is for generating electricity. Turkey, along with Brazil, signed a uranium swap deal earlier this year they hoped would stave off another round of UN sanctions on Iran. The deal was unsuccessful, and the UN Security Council imposed a fourth round of sanctions in June over the disputed nuclear program. Despite sanctions, Turkey has said it wants to increase trade ties with the Islamic Republic.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said last month Iran planned to bring forward its deadline for sending an astronaut into space from a previous date of 2019.
Meanwhile, Iran sentenced a female human rights activist to six years in prison Saturday, the latest sign of its determination to punish those the state views as “seditionists” for protesting last year’s presidential election. Shiva Nazar Ahari, 26, was arrested in December on her way to the funeral of Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, the spiritual mentor of the Green movement which opposed the re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad last June.
She was convicted of gathering and plotting to commit crime (against the state), propaganda against the establishment and “moharebe” or waging war against God, a crime that can be punished by death under the Islamic Republic’s law. – Agencies