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U.S. Urges UN To Punish Iran Over Missile Activity; Russia Rules Out Sanctions

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley (right) speaks with Vladimir Safronkov, Russian Deputy UN Ambassador

U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley has urged the United Nations Security Council to punish Iran for what she called "destabilizing behavior" and "dangerous violations" of UN arms embargoes, but Russia ruled out sanctions and said dialogue is needed.

Speaking before the council late on December 19, Haley said a ballistic missile strike on Saudi Arabia by Shi'ite Huthi rebels in Yemen earlier in the day was "a flashing red siren for this council."

She also said the strike had "all the hallmarks of previous attacks using Iranian-provided weapons."

Riyadh said it intercepted the missile, which had targeted the palace of Saudi King Salman, and accused Iran of supplying it to the rebels.

Predominantly Shi'ite Iran denies arming Huthi rebels who are fighting Yemen's government and a military coalition led by Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia.

"It is only a matter of time before one of these missiles hits the target," said Haley. "If we don't do something, we will miss the opportunity to prevent further violence from Iran," she said.

'Undeniable Evidence'

Haley last week presented reporters in Washington with what she called "undeniable evidence" that Iran had supplied missiles for two previous Huthi attacks on Saudi Arabia, and said she would bring the matter before the UN.

Haley told the council on December 19 that it should consider sanctions over what she called Iran's "clear violation" of a UN embargo on weapons sales to Yemen, and she said it should also hold the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps accountable for violating numerous council resolutions.

Other options for pressuring Iranians "to adjust their malign behavior," she said, include adopting a resolution prohibiting all Iranian ballistic missile activity, and strengthening a UN council resolution implementing the 2015 Iran nuclear deal to prohibit ballistic missile activity.

But Russian Deputy UN Ambassador Vladimir Safronkov quickly ruled that out, urging the council instead "to abandon the language of threats and sanctions, and to start using the instruments of dialogue."

Safronkov said the council should "concentrate on broadening cooperation and mutual trust" with Iran.

Guterres' Report

The council meeting had been called to discuss a report this month from UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres that found Iran was complying with the nuclear deal, which requires curbs on its nuclear activities in exchange for sanctions relief.

But the report said Tehran may be defying the UN council's call for Iran to halt ballistic missile development, which was included in the resolution carrying out the nuclear deal. Iran and Russia have maintained that part of the deal was not binding on Tehran.

Guterres said the UN is investigating whether Iran provided the ballistic missiles that the Huthi rebels in Yemen have used in strikes against Saudi Arabia.

Safronkov accused the UN Secretariat of carrying out investigations without prior council approval, saying it "has neither the authority nor the expertise." He also said the information obtained "cannot be considered accurate."

After the Huthi missile strike on December 19, the U.S. State Department issued a statement saying it was "deeply disturbed by aggressive Huthi actions supported by Iran's provision of advanced weapons, which threaten regional security and prolong the Yemen conflict."

With reporting by AFP, dpa, and AP