Monday, Iran defended North Korea over its controversial weekend rocket launch saying that every nation has the right to the peaceful use of space technology and denied there were any links between the two countries' missile programs, reports say.

Stating that Tehran has always maintained that space can be used for peaceful purposes by adhering to international laws, a foreign ministry spokesman said, As it is our right to do so, we maintain that others also have that right.

He also said the Iranian missile program was entirely separate from North Korea's, despite international concern that they are linked.

The Islamic republic's missile program is a separate and independent issue from North Korea's. Their program started years ago and their launch was not the first one, he said.

Iran also has a contentious relationship with the international community over its missile and nuclear programs and is believed to have collaborated closely on the latest rocket launch, judging by the payload, which appeared similar to one in an Iranian launch in February.

The United States led the western powers as well as South Korea and Japan in denouncing Sunday's launch as a reckless and provocative threat to global security. The North said it had launched an experimental communications satellite as part of a peaceful space program.

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