US urges UN to ban Iran nuclear missiles, keep arms embargo
By EDITH M. LEDERER
UNITED NATIONS (AP) - U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urged the U.N. Security Council on Wednesday to again ban Iranian ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons and to maintain an arms embargo that is scheduled to be lifted in 2020 under the landmark Iran nuclear deal.
He also urged the council to prevent Iran from circumventing existing arms restrictions by authorizing the inspection of ships in ports and stopping them on the high seas.
"Iran's ballistic missile activity is out of control," Pompeo said. "Iran has been on a testing spree and a proliferation spree that must come to an end."
Pompeo spoke at a Security Council meeting on Iran's compliance with the 2015 nuclear agreement that the Trump administration pulled out of earlier this year and the council resolution endorsing it.
The United States faces an uphill struggle in getting Security Council approval for Pompeo's proposals, especially following U.S. withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal, which is still supported by the five other parties - Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany. The Trump administration's re-imposition in November of sanctions against Iran that it had eased under the nuclear deal has also angered some key council members as well as U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
Pompeo criticized the council for weakening the ban on nuclear-capable Iranian missiles that was in effect from 2010 to 2015. The resolution adopted in 2015 to endorse the nuclear deal "calls upon" - but does not require - Iran to halt such activity, and it also supports lifting the arms embargo in 2020.
Iran's deputy U.N. ambassador, Eshagh Al Habib, accused the United States of "another series of lies, fabrications, disinformation and deceptive statements" about its ballistic missile program.
He told the Security Council that "Iran's ballistic missile program is designed to be exclusively capable of delivering conventional warheads required to deter foreign threats." He said it has no nuclear component.
Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said Iran is not banned from conducting ballistic missile launches and there is no proof its missiles are capable of carrying nuclear weapons.
Pompeo accused Iran of building the largest ballistic missile force in the region, one capable of threatening the Mideast and Europe, saying it has more than 10 ballistic missile systems in its inventory or in development and hundreds of missiles. He quoted the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard's airspace division, Amir Ali Hajzadeh, boasting Monday that Iran is capable of building missiles with a range beyond 2,000 kilometers (1,200 miles).
"Iran has exploited the goodwill of nations and defied multiple Security Council resolutions in its quest for a robust ballistic missile force," Pompeo said. "The United States will never stand for this. No nation that seeks peace and prosperity in the Middle East should either."
He said the Trump administration will exert "American leadership" to build a coalition of countries around the world to acknowledge and deter Iran's continued missile proliferation.
Pompeo said the U.S. and Europe have a different view on the Iran nuclear deal. "They view it as the linchpin; I view it as a disaster," he said.
But, he added, Europeans are concerned about the Iranian ballistic missile buildup.
Before the council meeting, eight European Union nations underlined their commitment to the Iran nuclear deal while urging Tehran to stop its "desta6bilizing regional activities" especially the launch of ballistic missiles.
Ambassadors of the eight nations - Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Sweden and the United Kingdom - said "it has been confirmed that Iran continues to implement its nuclear related commitments."
But they warned that "ballistic missile related activities such as the launch of nuclear capable missiles and any transfers of missiles, missile technologies and components ... would be in violation of Security Council resolutions."
Russia's Nebenzia lashed out at the Trump administration for abandoning the 2015 nuclear deal and for "trying to punish all other member states" for implementing the agreement and the Security Council resolution endorsing it.
He said "Iran is ready for a dialogue" but the United States and other Security Council members appear to be more interested in further escalating "anti-Iran hysteria and to demonize Iran."
"To lower the crisis what we need to do is pool international and regional efforts," Nebenzia said, saying that one way to start is to hold a conference with countries in the region and then broaden it to the entire Middle East.
French Ambassador Francois Delattre also stressed that a long-term strategy in the Middle East cannot rest on "exerting pressures and sanctions" on Iran but must include "a firm and frank dialogue" with the Iranians on issues including their ballistic missiles and destabilizing activities.
Dialogue is the only way the international community will be able to lay the foundations for a new agreement with Iran that will include the nuclear issue, its ballistic missile activity and regional stability, he said.
"There is no other way to make sure there is lasting stability in the region or to attain the goal of Iran never obtaining nuclear weapons," Delattre said.
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