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Italian Company Says No Plans to Launch Iran Communications Satellite

An Italian company that helped build a communications satellite for Iran said Wednesday there are no plans to launch it, denying an announcement made in Tehran this week.

Iran's government said Tuesday that it will use Italy to launch the satellite some time after March 2011, after waiting years for Russia to do the job, Iran's semiofficial Mehr news agency reported.

But Italy's Carlo Gavazzi Space company said no launch is planned, or would even be possible.

"Italy has no launching platforms and right now it's also impossible to export it," Roberto Aceti, general manager of the company, said in a telephone interview. Aceti said the satellite is now in Italy. He said an export license would be needed to transport the satellite elsewhere, but he said his company has not even requested one.

The Italian Economic Development Ministry confirmed it has never released an export license for the satellite.

"These are baseless hypotheses," Aceti said of the Iranian announcement, speaking from his company's Milan headquarters.

The satellite was first displayed in Russia in 2005, and Iran said at the time that it would be launched that year by a Russian Cosmos-3 satellite-carrier. But that never happened.

Iran, which said its own scientists had helped build the satellite, gave no reason for the switch away from Russia in its announcement Tuesday. However, in February Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad complained about Moscow's continuing failure to launch the satellite.

It is designed to travel in low earth orbit to assist in data communication over a period of three years, Iran said.