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Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Israel satellite to up Iran surveillance

JERUSALEM (AFP) - Israel will put a new spy satellite into service which will increase the levels of surveillance of Iran's nuclear programme, organisers of the launch said.

The Eros B satellite was to go into orbit in an evening launch in eastern Russia, carried on the back of a Russian ballistic missile that has been refitted to serve as a launcher.

The satellite is being launched by ImageSat, a company that is part-owned by state-owned Israel Aircraft Industries.

ImageSat said in a statement to AFP that the 280 kilogramme (616 pound) satellite, which is able to spot objects of no more than 70 centimeters (28 inches) long, would be fired into space from a site in Siberia.

"As soon as this satellite goes into orbit, it will place us in the major leagues of countries with photography satellites," ImageSat director general Shimon Eckhaus told the Yediot Aharonot newspaper on Tuesday.

The Eros B is an upgraded versions of the Eros A satellite which is already in operation.

Israeli Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said this week that Iran represented an existential threat to the survival of the Jewish state.

Although Teheran insists its programme is only designed to meet energy needs, Israel is convinced that the real intention is to develop the bomb.

Israel itself is believed to be the only state in the Middle East to posssess a nuclear arsenal, something that it refuses to confirm.
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