The United States on Tuesday imposed its first-ever sanctions against Iran’s space agency, accusing it of disguising a missile program.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said, “The United States will not allow Iran to use its space launch program as a cover to advance its ballistic missile program”.
The new sanctions affect the Iran Space Agency, the Iran Space Research Center, and the Aeronautics Research Institute.
The US said that the 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 US also warned the “international scientific community that collaborating with Iran on space launch vehicles could contribute to its ballistic missile program.”
In response to the US, Iran said that 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.
Earlier on Tuesday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani ruled out holding any bilateral talks with the United States and threatened to further cut Iran’s commitments to a nuclear deal within days.
Tehran and Washington have been at loggerheads since May last year when US President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from the nuclear deal and began reimposing crippling sanctions.
Iran has hit back with countermeasures in response to the US withdrawal from the deal, which gave it the promise of relief from sanctions in return for curbs on its nuclear programme.
Last week, Rouhani said that the US should lift sanctions against Iran as a precondition for negotiations.
Iranian officials have stressed that for any talks with the US, Washington should return to Tehran’s nuclear deal from which it withdrew in 2018 and implement its obligation under the accord.