April 17, 2014
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Ahmadinejad: I'll Be Iran's First Astronaut

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Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has revealed his dream to be his country's first astronaut.

He said he was willing to sacrifice his life for Iran's space programme, which aims to send a man into space by 2020 and put an astronaut on the moon by 2025.

"I'm ready to be the first Iranian to be sacrificed by the scientists of my country and go into space, even though I know there are a lot of candidates," state news agency IRNA quoted him as saying.

Speaking at a ceremony to unveil two new satellites, Mr Ahmadinejad added that he was willing to "auction (himself) and donate" the money to the space programme, which has been hit by international economic sanctions over Tehran's controversial nuclear drive.

Iran claimed last week it had successfully sent a monkey named Pishgam - or Pioneer in Farsi - into space and brought it back alive.

However, doubts have been raised over the mission as before-and-after images appear to show two different animals.

In 2010, Iran said it launched a rocket into space carrying a mouse, turtle and worms, but an attempt the following year to put a monkey into space failed - although no official explanation was given.

Western nations have suggested the space tests could be a cover for the development of ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads, but Tehran denies there is any link with its nuclear programme.

The UN Security Council has imposed an almost total embargo on the export of nuclear and space technology to Iran since 2007.

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