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U.S. Lambasts UN For Failing To Punish Iran For Sanctions Violations

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley lambasted the Security Council for failing to take any action against Iran, which she said had "repeatedly and deliberately violated" sanctions imposed by the body.

"The Security Council has failed to even take minimal steps to respond to these violations," Haley told a council meeting on June 29. "We Iran that we will not tolerate their egregious flaunting of UN resolutions."

Most UN sanctions were lifted 18 months ago under a deal Iran made with world powers to curb its nuclear program. But Iran is still subject to an arms embargo and other restrictions, which are not technically part of the nuclear agreement.

UN political affairs chief Jeffrey Feltman briefed the council on Secretary-General Antonio Guterres' third report on implementation of the remaining sanctions against Iran, enshrined in resolution 2231.

"The secretary-general's report makes clear that Iran is in violation of the Security Council resolution 2231 and so the question becomes 'what is the Security Council going to do about it?'" Haley said.

"Iran's destructive and destabilizing role in the Middle East goes far beyond its illicit missile launches," Haley said. "From Syria to Yemen and Iraq to Lebanon, Iran's support for terrorist groups continues unabated. Iran's weapons, military advisers, and arms smugglers stoke regional conflicts and make them harder to solve."

No council members have proposed taking any action against Iran, however. Diplomats say Russia and China, which both have the power to veto council actions, were unlikely to agree to more measures.

Russia questioned some of the findings of Guterres' report at the meeting.

The report addresses a weapons seizure by the French Navy in the northern Indian Ocean in March 2016. Feldman said the UN is "confident that the weapons seized are of Iranian origin and were shipped from Iran."

The report also looked at Iran's January 29 launch of a ballistic missile but said there was no consensus within the Security Council on how to respond to the launch.

Despite the lack of agreement on what to do about the missile tests, Guterres in the report called on Iran to "avoid such ballistic missile launches, which have the potential to increase tensions."

A year ago, Guterres' predecessor Ban Ki-moon described ballistic missile launches by Iran as "not consistent with the constructive spirit" of the nuclear deal.

Under the UN resolution, Iran is "called upon" to refrain from work on ballistic missiles designed to deliver nuclear weapons for up to eight years. Tehran and Moscow argue that language does not make it obligatory.

U.S. President Donald Trump's administration is reviewing the nuclear deal, which Trump has branded a "disaster." But Haley said that "until that review is completed, we will comply with our commitments and we expect Iran to do the same."

Other UN council members, including some of the United States' closest allies, praised the nuclear deal as historic and applauded Iran for complying with it.

Britain's deputy UN ambassador Peter Wilson called the agreement "one of the most important diplomatic achievements in recent memory."

In remarks that appeared aimed at the Trump administration, he said all parties to the deal should "uphold their commitments, including ensuring that the Iranian people gain further tangible benefits from sanctions relief."

European Union Ambassador Joao Vale de Almeida said the agreement is a "pillar of the international non-proliferation agenda" that "needs to be preserved and fully implemented."

"The rigorous implementation of commitments by all sides continues to be the best way to build trust," he said. Without the deal, "the world would not be a safer place."

Germany’s Ambassador to the UN Harald Braun called the deal an "outstanding success."

"The deal is working. All participants are keeping their commitments. This is an important contribution to security and stability in the region," he said.

But Britain's Wilson agreed with Haley that Iran's violations of bans on missile testing and arms transfers should be addressed.

Haley said the United States won't "turn a blind eye" to such violations in the future, and will interdict cargo shipments prohibited under the UN resolution as well as continue to impose its own sanctions on Iran.

"The continuance of the Iranian regime's destructive, destabilizing behavior will prevent them from ever having a normal relationship with the United States and the rest of the world," she said. "And the regime's continued oppression of its own people speaks volumes about its true nature."

With reporting by AP, AFP, dpa, and Reuters