US and allies call Iran's recent rocket launch 'threatening'

UNITED NATIONS — The United States and three Western allies are calling Iran's recent launch of a satellite-carrying rocket "a threatening and provocative step" that is "inconsistent" with a U.N. resolution endorsing the 2015 agreement to rein in its nuclear program.

In a letter to the U.N. Security Council, obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press, they complained that Iran's Simorgh space launch vehicle, if configured as a ballistic missile, would have the range and "payload capacity to carry a nuclear warhead."

The U.S., France, Germany and the United Kingdom said this is "inconsistent" with a provision in the 2015 resolution adopted by the Security Council calling on Iran "not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons."

The four countries, who brokered the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran along with China, Russia and the European Union, also said Iran's longstanding program to develop ballistic missiles "continues to be inconsistent" with the U.N. resolution "and has a destabilizing effect in the region."

On July 27, Iran successfully launched the country's most advanced satellite-carrying rocket into space, marking the most significant step forward for the Islamic State's young space program. Iran's foreign ministry said the missile program is part of "domestic policy of the country, deterrent and at service of regional peace and security."

Iran maintains that the nuclear deal and the Security Council resolution don't ban the country from ballistic missile activity, and Russia's new U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia told reporters Wednesday that in Moscow's reading, last week's launch "is not a violation of the agreement."

But U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley said in a statement: "The world must not allow Iran to act in defiance of the Security Council and its resolutions. The United States will be vigilant in ensuring that Iran is held accountable for such behavior."

The four countries said in the letter that Iran's Simorgh space vehicle, if configured as a ballistic missile, would be capable of delivering a 500 kilogram payload to a range of at least 300 kilometers, and is "inherently capable of delivering nuclear weapons."

"We call on Iran to immediately cease all activities related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such ballistic missile technology," the four countries said.

They said the international community must send "a clear message to Iran" when its actions violate or are inconsistent with the 2015 resolution — and it must continue to insist that legally binding measures in the resolution restricting outside support to Iran's ballistic missile program are fully implemented.

The four Western allies asked Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to "report fully and thoroughly on Iran's ballistic missile and space launch activity."

They also proposed in the letter to Italy's U.N. Ambassador Sebastiano Cardi, who chairs the Security Council's oversight of the 2015 resolution, that the next meeting consider the launch and "discuss appropriate responses."

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