The United States and three allies called for a Security Council meeting to respond to Iran's recent ballistic missile tests which they say were carried out in defiance of a UN resolution.
A report from the U.S., France, Britain and Germany obtained Tuesday by The Associated Press calls the launches "destabilizing and provocative." It said the Shahab-3 medium-range ballistic missile and Qiam-1 short-range ballistic missile fired by Iran are "inherently capable of delivering nuclear weapons."
A Security Council resolution adopted after the Iran nuclear deal was signed last year calls for Iran not to launch any ballistic missiles capable of delivering a nuclear weapon.
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But when the Iranian test-firings were raised in the council on March 14, Russia said the launches did not violate the resolution because "a call" is not a demand. Russia's stance makes any council action unlikely because as a permanent council member it has veto power.
"The resolution does not ban [the tests]," Interfax news agency cited Mikhail Ulyanov, head of the Russia's department for non-proliferation and arms control, as saying early Wednesday.
Iran's UN Mission said at the time that the country "has never sought to acquire nuclear weapons and never will in the future." It said the missile tests "were part of ongoing efforts of its armed forces to strengthen its legitimate defence capabilities ... against security threats."
The report from the four Western nations was sent to Spain's UN ambassador who has been designated by the Security Council to receive communications about Iran's compliance with the resolution.
It asked Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to report "fully and thoroughly" on Iranian ballistic missile activity "inconsistent" with the council resolution, and for the Security Council to discuss "appropriate responses."
The four nations condemned the threats against Israel in Iranian statements about the launches.
Israel's UN Ambassador Danny Danon welcomed the council's call for action.
"There must be consequences for Iran's hostility towards Israel," he said in a statement late Tuesday. "The international community must take action and impose sanctions against the Iranian regime."
Iran's top leader said Wednesday missiles were key to the Islamic Republic's future, offering support to the hardline Revolutionary Guards.
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei supported last year's nuclear deal with world powers but has since called for Iran to avoid further rapprochement with the United States and its allies, and maintain its economic and military strength.
"Those who say the future is in negotiations, not in missiles, are either ignorant or traitors," Khamenei, who has the final say on all matters of state, was quoted as saying by his website. "If the Islamic Republic seeks negotiations but has no defensive power, it would have to back down against threats from any weak country."