Defiant Iran says it will continue ballistic missile tests
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Defiant Iran says it will continue ballistic missile tests

Tehran brushes off UN chief's call to halt launches, saying program is intended for defense and does not conflict with nuclear deal

Illustrative: A missile launched from the Alborz mountains in Iran on March 9, 2016, reportedly inscribed in Hebrew, 'Israel must be wiped out.' (Fars News)
Illustrative: A missile launched from the Alborz mountains in Iran on March 9, 2016, reportedly inscribed in Hebrew, 'Israel must be wiped out.' (Fars News)

Iran said Saturday it would continue its ballistic missile program after UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said the missile tests were not in the spirit of the country’s landmark nuclear deal with world powers.

In comments published on Iran’s foreign ministry website Saturday, spokesman Bahram Ghasemi said that “Iran will strongly continue its missile program based on its own defense and national security calculations.”

He said that Iran’s missile program was not linked to the nuclear deal and did not conflict with the UN Security Council resolution endorsing the agreement.

On Friday Tehran dismissed Ban’s report as biased and urged him to produce “a fair and realistic report.”

Reuters on Friday quoted an Iranian Foreign Ministry source as telling Iran’s semi-official Tasnim news agency that, “I suggest that Mr. Ban give a fair report … in which he also mentions America is not fulfilling its commitments under the deal.”

In his first six-monthly report to the UN Security Council on implementation of a resolution endorsing the landmark deal, Ban called on Iran to stop conducting ballistic missile launches. He said such actions could increase tensions in the Middle East.

But Ban’s report stopped short of saying the missile launches were a violation of the UN Security Council resolution.

File: United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on March 14, 2016 at the United Nations in New York (AFP/Don Emmert)
File: United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on March 14, 2016 at the United Nations in New York (AFP/Don Emmert)

The resolution “calls upon” Iran not to launch any ballistic missiles capable of delivering a nuclear weapon. But when several Iranian test-firings were raised in the Security Council in March, Russia said the launches did not violate the resolution because “a call” is not a demand.

Iran underlined in the report that it had never sought to acquire nuclear weapons and never would. It said the resolution does not prohibit legitimate and conventional military activities.

The resolution, which was adopted on July 20, 2015, authorized measures leading to the end of UN sanctions.

When the UN nuclear agency certified in mid-January that Iran had met all of its commitments under the nuclear deal, many Western economic sanctions that had been in place for years were lifted, unlocking access to $100 billion in frozen assets and unleashing new opportunities for the country’s battered economy. But Iran is still subject to a UN arms embargo and other restrictions, and the UN resolution includes a provision that would automatically reinstate sanctions if Tehran reneges on its promises.

The US, France, Britain and Germany called in March for the Security Council to discuss “appropriate responses” to Iran’s ballistic missile activity which they said were “destabilizing and provocative.”

But no action has been taken, and the divisions in the council on whether the ballistic missile launches violated the UN resolution make it unlikely that Iran will face new sanctions.

A Khalij Fars ballistic missile on a transporter during a military parade in Iran. (Iranian military/CC BY-SA 3.0/WikiMedia)
A Khalij Fars ballistic missile on a transporter during a military parade in Iran. (Iranian military/CC BY-SA 3.0/WikiMedia)

The secretary-general was clearly opposed to any further tests.

“While it is for the Security Council to interpret its own resolutions, I am concerned that those ballistic missile launches are not consistent with the constructive spirit demonstrated by the signing” of the Iran nuclear deal, Ban said. “I call upon Iran to refrain from conducting such ballistic missile launches since they have the potential to increase tensions in the region.”

 

 

Germany also said Friday it was closely watching Iran’s efforts to procure nuclear and missile technology, after German intelligence agencies reported dozens of attempts last year.

Germany’s domestic intelligence agency said last month that Iran’s nuclear procurement efforts in the country remained “at a quantitatively high level” in 2015 and attempts to acquire missile technology showed an “upward trend.”

A separate report by the domestic intelligence agency for North Rhine-Westphalia, published Monday, stated that counter-espionage officials had spotted 141 procurement attempts in the state last year — twice as many as in 2014.

German Foreign Ministry spokesman Martin Schaefer said Friday that the intelligence report made for “unpleasant” reading, but noted that it covered a period before the deal with Iran came into force on Jan. 16, 2016.

Schaefer said that Germany and its partners would work to ensure Iran abides by the agreement signed in Vienna last July.

“We are already talking to our partners in New York and elsewhere, and we won’t hesitate to discuss this with Tehran,” he said.

 

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