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US to protest Iran's missile tests, but says nuclear pact remains intact

The US says the international nuclear deal with Iran remains intact but that missile tests "clearly" violated a broader UN resolution. Iran said they were in compliance with both the nuclear accord and the resolution.

The United States will protest to the United Nations and consider unilateral actions against Iran if it determines that this week's Iranian missile tests violated a UN Security Council resolution.

Spokesman John Kirby said Iran violated UN resolution 2231 that covers an international agreement to lift sanctions against Iran in exchange for the Tehran regime abandoning attempts to develop a nuclear weapon.

Although this resolution incorporates the nuclear agreement, Kirby said it also extends beyond it, meaning that Iran could violate the resolution itself but still be in compliance with the nuclear agreement.

"We're not going to turn a blind eye to this and we're not at all trying to make any excuses for it," Kirby told journalists. "I'm just trying to get to a technical point here, which is that it's not a violation of the Iran deal itself. It is, however, very clearly a violation of 2231, the new UN Security Council resolution. And we'll deal with it."

Iran's Revolutionary Guard test-launched several ballistic missiles on Tuesday and Wednesday, including some from launcher trucks tucked in the Alborz mountain range in the north of the country, hitting targets nearly 900 miles away in the southeastern Makran area.

Iran: missiles for legitimate defense only

Flames erupt from the bottom of an Iranian ballistic missile moments before being launched.

Iranian defence ministry photo: ballistic missile launch

Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman Hossein Jaberi Ansari defended the missile tests in comments to the official IRNA news agency on Thursday, saying the missiles were "conventional defensive instruments and they were merely for legitimate defense."

Ansari says the test-firing "did not defy the Security Council resolution."

But Iran's Revolutionary Guard - formally know as the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps; a hard-line branch of Tehran's military forces - issued a much more belligerent defense of the missile tests.

"Iran's missile program will not stop under any circumstances ... The IRGC has never accepted the UN Security Council resolutions on Iran's missile work ... we are always ready to defend the country against any aggressor. Iran will not turn into Yemen, Iraq or Syria," Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh told state TV on late Wednesday, referring to a series of Middle East countries consumed with internal conflicts or outright civil war.

"Some of the missiles carried 24 warheads and one ton of TNT," the general said.

Vice President Joe Biden said the US would act against Iran if the missile tests were confirmed.

"All their conventional activity outside the [nuclear] deal, which is still beyond the deal, we will and are attempting to act wherever we can find it," Biden said during a visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories. Successful international efforts to broker the Iranian deal last year prompted major resistance from Israel's government, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decrying the plans in Congress.

bik/msh (AP, Reuters, AFP)

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