UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is calling on Iran to stop conducting ballistic missile launches, saying they aren't in the spirit of last summer's nuclear deal with six major powers.
Ban said in his first six-monthly report to the U.N. Security Council on implementation of a resolution endorsing the landmark deal to rein in Iran's nuclear program that the missile tests could increase tensions in the Mideast. The Associated Press obtained key excerpts from the report on Friday.
The resolution "calls upon" Iran not to launch any ballistic missiles capable of delivering a nuclear weapon. But when several Iranian test-firings were raised in the Security Council in March, Russia said the launches did not violate the resolution because "a call" is not a demand.
Iran underlined in the report that it had never sought to acquire nuclear weapons and never would. It said the resolution does not prohibit legitimate and conventional military activities.
The resolution, which was adopted on July 20, authorized measures leading to the end of U.N. sanctions.
When the U.N. nuclear agency certified in mid-January that Iran had met all of its commitments under the nuclear deal, many Western economic sanctions that had been in place for years were lifted, unlocking access to $100 billion in frozen assets and unleashing new opportunities for the country's battered economy. But Iran is still subject to a U.N. arms embargo and other restrictions, and the U.N. resolution includes a provision that would automatically reinstate sanctions if Tehran reneges on its promises.
The U.S., France, Britain and Germany called in March for the Security Council to discuss "appropriate responses" to Iran's ballistic missile activity which they said were "destabilizing and provocative."
But no action has been taken, and the divisions in the council on whether the ballistic missile launches violated the U.N. resolution make it unlikely that Iran will face new sanctions.
The secretary-general is clearly opposed to any further tests.
"While it is for the Security Council to interpret its own resolutions, I am concerned that those ballistic missile launches are not consistent with the constructive spirit demonstrated by the signing" of the Iran nuclear deal, Ban said. "I call upon Iran to refrain from conducting such ballistic missile launches since they have the potential to increase tensions in the region."
Ban also expressed concern in the report at the seizure of arms shipments by the U.S. Navy in the Gulf of Oman on March 28.
"The United States concluded that these arms had originated in Iran and were likely bound for Yemen," he said in the report. "Iran has informed the (U.N.) Secretariat that it never engaged in such delivery."
Ban said the U.N. is still reviewing information from the United States and Iran and will provide an update on the weapons seizure sometime in the future.