Health minister resigns over budget cuts
WASHINGTON, Jan 3, (RTRS): The United States issued a pre-emptive warning to Iran on Thursday against pursuing three planned space rocket launches that it said would violate a UN Security Council resolution because they use ballistic missile technology.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Iran had announced plans to launch in the coming months three rockets, called Space Launch Vehicles (SLV), which he said incorporate technology that is “virtually identical” to that used in intercontinental ballistic missiles. “The United States will not stand by and watch the Iranian regime’s destructive policies place international stability and security at risk,” Pompeo said in a statement.
“We advise the regime to reconsider these provocative launches and cease all activities related to ballistic missiles in order to avoid deeper economic and diplomatic isolation.”
Iranian Deputy Defense Minister General Qassem Taqizadeh in late November was quoted by Iranian media as saying that Iran was planning to launch three satellites into space soon. “The satellites have been made by domestic experts and will be put on various orbits,” Taqizadeh said.
Pompeo said such rocket launches would violate United Nations Security Council Resolution 2231, which endorsed a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers. It calls upon Iran not to undertake activities related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such technology.
It stops short of explicitly barring such activity. US President Donald Trump decided in May to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal. Pompeo said Iran has launched ballistic missiles numerous times since the UN resolution was adopted. He said it test-fired a medium-range ballistic missile capable of carrying multiple warheads on Dec 1.
“The United States has continuously cautioned that ballistic missile and SLV launches by the Iranian regime have a destabilizing effect on the region and beyond,” Pompeo said. “France, Germany, the United Kingdom, and many nations from around the world have also expressed deep concern.”
In July 2017, Iran launched a rocket it said could deliver a satellite into space, an act the US State Department called provocative. Earlier that month, the United States slapped new economic sanctions on Iran over its ballistic missile program.
Iran says its space program is peaceful, but Western experts suspect it may be a cover for developing military missile technologies. Iran’s health minister has resigned over proposed budget cuts, the official news agency IRNA reported, amid an economic crisis wrought by the reimposition of US sanctions on Tehran.
IRNA said on Thursday President Hassan Rouhani accepted the resignation of Hassan Ghazizadeh Hashemi, widely seen as the key official behind the 2014 launch of an ambitious plan for universal medical insurance sometimes dubbed “Rouhanicare”.
Hashemi had repeatedly complained about delays in payments of budgeted funds in the past and about cuts in his ministry’s budget under the new state spending plans, IRNA said. Trump reintroduced sanctions on Iran last year, targeting in particular the country’s lifeblood oil sector, after pulling out of a 2015 nuclear deal. The move has helped depress the value of Iran’s rial currency and aggravated annual inflation fourfold to nearly 40 percent in November.
Last month, Rouhani presented a $47 billion draft state budget with increased spending on lower income groups, saying the US sanctions would affect people’s lives and economic growth but not bring the government to its knees.
Despite the rise in the rial value of the budget, however, it is effectively worth about half of the current budget because of the recent weakening of the currency and galloping inflation. In recent months, various Iranian cities have been rocked by demonstrations as factory workers, teachers, truck drivers and farmers protested against economic hardship and corruption.