Unha-3 rocket launching at North Korea's West
Unha-3 rocket launching at North Korea's WestReuters

Iran congratulated North Korea on Wednesday for its "successful" launch of a long-range rocket, an incident that provoked global condemnation, AFP reported.

Tehran "congratulates the people and the government" of North Korea on "the successful launching of the satellite-carrying rocket," Iran's armed forces deputy chief, Brigadier General Masoud Jazayeri, told the Fars news agency.

"Dominant powers, like the United States, cannot halt the progress of independent states, who through resistance can quickly tread the path of scientific and technological self-reliance," he said.

North Korea said Wednesday's launch had successfully put a scientific satellite in orbit, and insisted that the mission was not an intercontinental missile test banned under UN Security Council sanctions.

The United States and its allies reacted angrily, and even China expressed "regret" at the launch by its defiant communist ally.

Jazayeri's comments came two days after a South Korean newspaper reported that a number of Iranian missile experts were in North Korea offering technical assistance for the launch.

The report was immediately denied by Iran's foreign ministry.

The defense ministry also issued a statement on Wednesday, vehemently denying its experts were in North Korea and denying that they "cooperated in the launch of a ballistic missile," according to AFP.

Pyongyang and Tehran are both under UN Security Council sanctions for their ballistic missile and nuclear programs. Earlier this month, a Western diplomatic source claimed Iran had stationed defense personnel in North Korea since October to strengthen cooperation in missile and nuclear development.

A 2011 UN sanctions report said Tehran and Pyongyang were suspected of sharing ballistic missile technology.

For an analysis of the signifcance of the launch, click here.