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Iran missile tests defied UN resolution, say US and European allies

The US, Britain, France and Germany have accused Iran of defying a UN resolution banning it from conducting ballistic activity related to nuclear weapons. The charges come after a series of provocative missile launches.

The United States and its European allies have accused Iran of defying a UN Security Council resolution by

launching nuclear-capable missiles

.

The US, Britain, France and Germany leveled the charges Tuesday in a joint letter addressed to Spain's UN ambassador and UN chief Ban Ki-moon. In the letter, US and European officials said Iran's recent ballistic tests involved missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons and were "in defiance of" council resolution 2231, adopted last July.

Iran had launched missiles that were "inherently capable of delivering nuclear weapons," the letter said. It called on the Security Council to discuss appropriate responses to Tehran's failure to comply with its obligations.

Symbolbild UN-Sicherheitsrat

UN Security Council Resolution 2231 called for Iran to pause its activity related to nuclear-capable ballistic missiles for eight years

But Council diplomats said the case for new UN sanctions on Iran was weak. Moreover, Western officials said that although the launches went against 2231, they were not a violation of the core nuclear agreement between Iran, Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States.

Russia, which wields veto power in the Security Council, opposes new UN sanctions on Iran. Both Russia and China have lobbied against continuing restrictions on Iran's missile program during last year's negotiations over the nuclear deal.

Not legally binding

The letter from the four powers stopped short of calling the Iranian launches a "violation" of the resolution, which calls for Iran to refrain for up to eight years from activity, including launches, related to nuclear-capable ballistic missiles.

Diplomats say key powers agree the resolution's language is not legally binding and cannot be enforced through the use of sanctions or military force. But Western nations view the language as a ban and say Iran has a political obligation to comply.

Iran denies its missiles are able to carry nuclear weapons and says the missiles tested were designed to strike against Israel, remarks which drew condemnation from the United States

As part of last year's landmark nuclear deal, international sanctions on Tehran were lifted. Diplomats said the most Iran could expect would be a public rebuke by the Security Council. Under the nuclear deal, new sanctions would only be triggered by

violations of the agreed restrictions

on Iran's atomic work.

But a rebuke from the Security Council could provide a legal framework for the US and European countries to consider new sanctions against Iran, according to Western diplomats. France has also suggested there could be unilateral European sanctions over Iran's missile launches.

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bw/jr (Reuters, AFP)

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