Iran's President Ahmadinejad offers to go into space

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (right) with the monkey that went into space in Tehran on 4/2/13 President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (right) met the monkey that Iran says it sent into space last week

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Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has volunteered to become the first person sent into space by his country's fledgling space programme.

"I'm ready to be the first Iranian to be sacrificed by the scientists of my country and go into space," he is quoted by state media as saying.

Iran announced last week that it had successfully sent a monkey to space.

Western nations have expressed concern that Iran's space programme is being used to develop long-range missiles.

Such missiles could potentially be used to carry nuclear warheads.

Iran denies it is seeking to develop nuclear weapons and insists its nuclear programme is solely for peaceful purposes.

Worms

President Ahmadinejad made his space-travel offer during an address to scientists on Iran's national day of space technology in Tehran, state media report.

It comes a week after Iran said it had successfully sent a monkey to an altitude of some 120 km (75 miles) for a sub-orbital flight. The monkey returned unharmed.

In the US Senator John McCain mocked Mr Ahmadinejad's announcement, using Twitter to compare the Iranian president to the nation's space monkey.

"So Ahmadinejad wants to be first Iranian in space - wasn't he just there last week?" Mr McCain wrote.

The tweet provoked an angry response from many who saw racist overtones in his comparison of the dark-skinned, bearded Mr Ahmadinejad to a monkey.

That prompted Mr McCain to tweet again, saying: "Re: Iran space tweet - lighten up folks, can't everyone take a joke?"

Pictures released by the Iranian presidency website on Monday showed President Ahmadinejad meeting the monkey.

He also unveiled two small satellites "Nahid" and "Zohreh".

In 2010, Iran successfully sent a rat, a turtle and worms into space.

President Ahmadinejad announced in 2011 that the country planned to send a man into space by 2019.

A domestically made satellite was sent into orbit for the first time in 2009.

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