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EU countries urge UN to take action over Iran's 'nuclear-capable missiles'

An Iranian flag flies at the country's newly expanded Bushehr nuclear power plant [Getty]

Date of publication: 5 December, 2019

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France, Germany and the UK have asked the UN chief to inform its Security Council that Iran’s development of nuclear-capable ballistic missiles contravenes a resolution enacted during the 2015 accords.
France, Germany and the UK have warned that Iran's development of nuclear-capable ballistic missiles contravenes a UN Security Council resolution against such activity by Tehran, according to a letter circulated Wednesday.

Ambassadors from the three European nations penned an open letter to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, urging him to inform the council in his next report that Iran's ballistic missile activity is "inconsistent" with a resolution endorsing the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran.

The letter cites footage released on social media 22 April of a previously unseen flight test of a new Shahab-3 medium-range ballistic missile variant on a booster capable of delivering a nuclear weapon.

The diplomats noted that a 2015 report by the International Atomic Energy Agency on possible military dimensions of Iran's nuclear programme concluded "that extensive evidence indicated detailed Iranian research in 2002-2003 on arming the Shahab-3 with a nuclear warhead".

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Officials in the Trump administration also have said Iran is working to obtain nuclear-capable missiles, something the Iranians deny.

US President Donald Trump withdrew from the nuclear agreement in May 2018, re-imposing crippling sanctions on Iran. However the agreement is still supported by the five other parties - France, the UK, Russia and China, which are all veto-wielding Security Council members, and Germany, which is currently serving a two-year term on the council.

Despite the backing of the five countries, Iran has consistently broken off from various commitments stipulated in the accord, saying it will continue to do so until the sanctions are lifted.

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The letter says "France, Germany and the United Kingdom assert once again our firm conclusion that Iran's development of nuclear-capable ballistic missiles and related technologies is inconsistent" with the missile provision in the council resolution.

That provision urges Iran "not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons".

But it does not require Tehran to halt such activity, and the Iranian government insists all its missile activities are legal and not nuclear-related.

France, Germany and the UK gave four examples of "Iranian activity inconsistent" with the 20 July 2015 Security Council resolution endorsing the nuclear agreement, which was signed six days earlier.

In addition to the 23 April flight test of the new Shahab-3 missile variant, it cited the laucnh of a liquid-propelled medium-range ballistic missile, the Borkan-3, fired by the Iranian-backed Houthi forces in Yemen in August, and the attempted but unsuccessful launch in August of a Safir satellite, which UN experts say share "a great deal of similar materials and technology" with ballistic missiles.

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The Europeans' letter says these activities "are the latest in a long series of advances in Iranian ballistic missile technology" and "furthermore, Iran continues its proliferation of ballistic missile technology in the region" in violation of Security Council resolution.

The Security Council has scheduled a meeting for 19 December to discuss implementation of the 2015 resolution on the Iran nuclear deal.

During last year's meeting, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urged the council 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 nuclear deal.

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