Iran refuses to confirm conducting missile test

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran’s foreign minister on Tuesday refused to confirm whether his country recently conducted a missile test, saying the Iranian missile program is not part of the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.

The UN Security Council met privately later at the Trump administration’s request, and US Ambassador Nikki Haley said afterward that the world should be “alarmed” at the Iranian test and the council should take action.

Haley called the medium-range ballistic missile test “absolutely unacceptable” and said the world would not accept Iran’s contention that it has no intention of attacking any country.

During a joint news conference with visiting French counterpart Jean-Marc Ayrault, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was asked if Iran had conducted a recent missile test.

“The missile issue is not part of the nuclear deal. As all signatories to the nuclear deal have announced, the missile issue is not a part of” the deal, he said.

Iran’s missiles, he added, are “not designed for the capability of carrying a nuclear warhead … Our ballistic missile was designed to carry a normal warhead in the field of legitimate defense.”

A US defense official said Monday that the missile test ended with a “failed” re-entry into earth’s atmosphere. The official had no other details, including the type of missile. State Department spokesman Mark Toner said the US was looking into whether the ballistic missile test violated a 2015 Security Council resolution.

Zarif said he hopes the issue is not used as “an excuse for some political games by the new US administration. The Iranian people would never allow their defense to be subject to the permission of others.”

Iran has long boasted of having missiles that can travel 2,000 kilometers (1,243 miles), placing much of the Middle East, including Israel, in range. Iran says its missiles are key to deterring a US or Israeli attack.

In a video posted on his Facebook page Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he planned to discuss Iran in his upcoming meeting with President Donald Trump in Washington.

“I intend to raise with him the renewal of sanctions against Iran, sanctions against the ballistic missiles and additional sanctions against terror and also to take care of this failed nuclear agreement,” Netanyahu said.

In May 2016, Iranian Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan issued a vague denial after a media outlet close to the Revolutionary Guard reported that the country had test-fired a ballistic missile with a 2,000-kilometer range. The powerful Revolutionary Guard is in charge of Iran’s ballistic missile program.

Deghan said no missile had been tested “with the range that was published in the media,” but he did not deny that a ballistic missile had been tested.

Earlier, last March, Iran test-fired two ballistic missiles — one emblazoned with the phrase “Israel must be wiped out” in Hebrew — setting off an international outcry.

Haley, the US envoy, said the missile tested Sunday had a range of 300 kilometers.

Britain’s UN ambassador, Matthew Rycroft, said the Security Council decided to refer the test to its committee dealing with Iranian issues and asked for an investigation. This is the same procedure the council has carried out with previous Iranian missile tests.

The 2015 Security Council resolution adopted after Iran reached its nuclear deal with world powers calls on Iran not to take any actions related to ballistic missiles “designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons.”

Zarif has said its ballistic missile launches are not banned under UN Security Council Resolution 2231 because the prohibition applies only to missiles specifically designed to carry nuclear warheads. Iran has long argued that general missile tests are not banned, nor are those applying to ones capable of carrying nuclear warheads — so long as that was not their designated purpose.

The US, which still maintains its own set of sanctions against Iran, has argued that previous ballistic missile launches are in defiance of the ban.

The European Union called on Tehran to “refrain from activities which deepen mistrust.” EU foreign policy spokeswoman Nabila Massrali said a ballistic missile test would not violate the nuclear deal with world powers, but added that it was “inconsistent” with Resolution 2231.

“Whether it constitutes a violation is for the Security Council to determine,” she said.

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press