U.S. imposes more sanctions on Iran in response to space launch

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The U.S. Treasury Department on Friday hit Iran with new sanctions for its Thursday launch of a satellite-carrying rocket.

On Thursday, Iran successfully tested the Simorgh rocket, a two-stage vehicle meant to deliver small space satellites into orbit.

The top lawmaker pointed to Iran's paramount status in the Middle East and said imposing new sanctions on the country is harmful to the U.S.

That resolution, which endorsed a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, calls upon Iran not to undertake activities related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such technology. At the time, experts said that while the rocket itself was not able to fly far enough to be considered an intercontinental ballistic missile, it "could be Iran's road to an ICBM".

The Treasury move was announced just hours after the US Senate voted nearly unanimously to impose new sanctions on Iran, Russia and North Korea.

"These sanctions target key entities involved in Iran's ballistic missile program, and underscore the United States' deep concerns with Iran's continued development and testing of ballistic missiles and other provocative behavior", Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said in a statement.

In another allegation against the U.S. adversary, Mr Mnuchin said that missile attacks on U.S. partner Saudi Arabia over the weekend by Houthi rebels in Yemen had likely come with the support of Iran.

The US government imposed sanctions against six Iranian companies after Tehran launched a satellite into orbit, saying they were "central" to the country's ballistic missile program. The U.S. has long accused Tehran of shipping weapons to the Houthis, a Shiite group that controls part of Yemen and is being fought by a Saudi-led coalition.

Officials have always been concerned the technology used to put a satellite into space could also be repurposed to make a long-range ballistic missile capable of one day potentially hitting the U.S. The Simorgh rocket is based on a North Korean design.

The US government says space launches help a country develop technologies closely related to those of an global ballistic missile.

It has recently become known that US President Donald Trump's administration insists on inspecting "suspicious" military facilities in Iran.

On the other hand, in order to launch an inspection at Iran's military facilities, the U.S. needs coordination with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

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