Ahmadinejad 'ready for sacrifice' as Iran's first astronaut in space

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, right, pictured at an exhibition to celebrate Iran's space programme. Photo: IRNA

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says he is willing to be the first Iranian astronaut to be sent into space.

"I'm ready to be the first Iranian to sacrifice myself for our country's scientists," he said in an address to space scientists in Tehran, according to the official IRNA news agency.

The 56-year-old premier, a keen supporter of the country's space programme, was touring an exhibition of its scientists achievements.

The president's statement comes a week after Iran sent a monkey into space.

IRNA said Pishgam the primate travelled 72 miles into space and was returned - alive - to Earth.

The country's defence minister said Iran is close to sending a satellite into space from its Imam Khomeini space centre, which is still under construction.

Pishgam the monkey was pictured on television reportedly before being launched into space. Credit: Press TV
Ahmadinejad, right, tours the country's space exhibition.

Former Republican presidential candidate John McCain invoked criticism shortly after Ahmadinejad's comments by sending the following tweet:

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So Ahmadinejad wants to be first Iranian in space - wasn't he just there last week? "Iran launches monkey into space" http://t.co/PaZKAqac

He responded to suggestions that his tweet lacked tact by urging his critics to "lighten up".

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Re: Iran space tweet - lighten up folks, can't everyone take a joke?