US, Europe push UN for action over Iran rocket launch
The United States, backed by France, Britain and Germany yesterday 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 kilometers 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.
What action should be taken
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.—AFP