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UNITED NATIONS, United States, Aug 2, (Agencies): The United States, backed by France, Britain and Germany on Wednesday pushed for action at the UN Security Council following Iran’s launch of a satellite rocket, described by Washington as a threatening and provocative step.
US Ambassador Nikki Haley argued in a letter on behalf of the four countries that the Simorgh space launch vehicle system, “if configured as a ballistic missile” would have a range of over 300 kms (185 miles) and enough payload capacity to carry a nuclear warhead.
“This launch therefore represents a threatening and provocative step by Iran,” said the letter seen by AFP.
Iran launched the rocket on July 27, prompting the United States to impose sanctions on six companies that Washington said were linked to Iran’s missile program.
“Iran’s longstanding program to develop ballistic missiles continues to be inconsistent with UN Security Council Resolution 2231 and has a destabilizing effect in the region,” said the letter.
Resolution 2231 was passed two years ago to endorse a landmark 2015 nuclear deal between Iran, Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States.
Under that resolution which lifted sanctions in exchange for curbs on Iran’s nuclear program, Tehran is “called upon” to refrain from carrying out launches of missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons.
Iran has repeatedly said that it is not seeking to develop nuclear weapons and is not in violation of the resolution.
In the letter, the United States said the technology necessary for the space launch vehicle was “closely related to those of ballistic missiles, in particular to those of an intercontinental ballistic missile.”
It argued that the missile technology control regime defined any ballistic missile system with a 500 kilogram payload and a range of at least 300 kilometers as being capable of delivering a nuclear weapon.
This information should “allow the council to draw informed and timely conclusion as to what action should be taken,” said the letter.
Haley has repeatedly called on the council to respond to Iran’s missile tests, but Russia has said Iran is not in violation of the resolution.
The four countries called on Iran to “immediately cease” all ballistic missile activities and said the international community must also “send a clear message to Iran.”
They requested that UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres report to the council on Iran’s ballistic missile and space launch activities.
Iran’s foreign ministry on Saturday said it will continue “with full power” its missile program and criticized the US sanctions as “hostile, reprehensible and unacceptable.”
Tehran has accused the US administration of seeking to weaken the nuclear deal that US President Donald Trump branded “the worst deal ever” during his election campaign.
Despite criticism of the nuclear deal, the US administration has certified that Iran was in compliance with the agreement.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson acknowledged on Tuesday that he and President Donald Trump disagree over the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, and said the two men discuss how to use the international agreement to advance administration policies.
Trump at times vowed during the 2016 presidential election campaign to withdraw from the agreement, which was signed by the United States, Russia, China and three European powers to curb Iran’s nuclear program in return for lifting most Western sanctions.
Trump has preserved the deal for now, although he has made clear he did so reluctantly after being advised to do so by Tillerson.
“He and I have differences of views on things like JCPOA, and how we should use it,” Tillerson said at a State Department briefing, using the acronym for the deal, formally called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
Tillerson said that Washington could “tear it up and walk away” or stay in the deal and hold Iran accountable to its terms, which he said would require Iran to act as a “good neighbor.”
Critics say the deal falls short in addressing Iran’s support for foreign fighters in Iraq and Syria, arms shipments around the Middle East and ballistic missile tests.
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tillerson’s remarks.
Trump said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal last month that he predicts Iran will be judged “noncompliant” with the Iran deal at the next deadline in October, and that he would have preferred to do so months ago.
Tillerson expressed a more nuanced view of the deal’s potential benefits on Tuesday.
“There are a lot of alternative means with which we use the agreement to advance our policies and the relationship with Iran, and that’s what the conversation generally is around with the president as well,” Tillerson said.
European officials would likely be reluctant to re-impose sanctions, especially the broader measures that helped drive Iran to negotiate over its nuclear program in the first place.
New US sanctions on Iran in July were a breach of the nuclear deal and Tehran had lodged a complaint with the body that oversees the pact’s implementation, a senior Iranian politician said.
Tillerson acknowledged that the United States is limited in how much it can pressure Iran on its own and said it was important to coordinate with the other parties to the agreement.
“The greatest pressure we can put to bear on Iran to change the behavior is a collective pressure,” he said.