By Louis Charbonneau
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The United States will raise during U.N. Security Council consultations next week the issue of Iran's recent ballistic missile launches and is urging countries to cooperate on undermining Tehran's missile program, the U.S. envoy to the United Nations said on Friday.
"We will raise these dangerous launches directly at Council consultations, which we have called for, on Monday," U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power said in a statement. "These launches underscore the need to work with partners around the world to slow and degrade Iran's missile program."
A series of ballistic missile tests this week conducted by Iran's Revolutionary Guard units drew international concern. The United States, France and other countries said that if confirmed, the new launches of nuclear-capable ballistic missiles would violate U.N. Security Council resolution 2231.
Power said Iran's missile launches were "provocative and destabilizing."
"Moreover, Iranian military leaders have reportedly claimed these missiles are designed to be a direct threat to Israel," she said. "We condemn such threats against another U.N. member state and one of our closest allies."
Power added that Washington would continue to demand "full implementation of resolution 2231, which expressly prohibits third-party support to Iran's ballistic missile program, as we also consider our appropriate national response."
The closed-door consultations on Iran will take place Monday morning. The 15-nation Security Council is scheduled to hold separate consultations on Syria at 10 a.m. ET (1500 GMT).
The United States has said Iran's missile tests do not violate the terms of an historic nuclear deal between Tehran and six major powers, which resolution 2231, adopted in July 2015, endorsed. The U.N. missile restrictions and an arms embargo on Iran are not technically part of the nuclear agreement.
Council diplomats say they will first await confirmation from national intelligence agencies about whether the missiles Iran has fired were nuclear-capable. They also say that Russia and China, which had opposed continuing U.N. restrictions on Iran's missile program, would likely block council action.
Iran's Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday that the tests were not in violation of the nuclear agreement, which led to lifting of sanctions in January.
Western diplomats say resolution 2231, which "calls upon" Iran to refrain from certain ballistic missile activity, offers no green light for nuclear-capable missile launches by Tehran and is therefore a clear ban.
However, they acknowledge that Russia, China and Iran likely interpret that language as an appeal to Iran to voluntarily refrain from missile activity. Tehran has also said that none of its missiles are designed to carry nuclear weapons.
While no new U.N. sanctions may be imminent, Western diplomats say that the United States and some of its allies could take additional punitive action in the form of unilateral national sanctions against Iran over the latest missile launches, something Washington has done previously.
When U.N. sanctions on Iran were lifted in January, the Security Council's Iran sanctions committee was shut down. But council diplomats said they expect the former chair of that now-defunct committee, Spain, will take on the task of overseeing the monitoring of Tehran's compliance with resolution 2231.
(Reporting by Louis Charbonneau; Editing by Leslie Adler)