Iranian ballistic missile_311 reuters.
(photo credit: Ho New / Reuters)
UNITED NATIONS - A UN Security Council committee is split
over whether Iran's missile tests last year violated UN sanctions imposed on
Tehran because of its nuclear and ballistic missile programs, Australia's UN
envoy said on Monday.
That division effectively rules out any expansion
of sanctions against Tehran over the tests for the time being, UN envoys said
on condition of anonymity.
Diplomats said it was Russia, backed by China,
that refused to declare Tehran's missile launches a violation of the UN
restrictions, as a UN Panel of Experts on Iran said was the case.
rift on the Iran sanctions committee, which consists of all 15 Security Council
members, highlights the difficulties Western powers face in persuading Russia
and China to join them in keeping up the pressure on Tehran to halt banned
nuclear and missile work.
Iran rejects allegations by the United States,
European powers and their allies that it is developing an atomic weapons
capability. It says the UN sanctions against it are illegal and refuses to
comply with them.
As long as the sanctions committee remains divided, it
will be difficult for the Security Council to add names of any Iranian
individuals or entities linked to the missile tests, Security Council diplomats
said on condition of anonymity.
Australia's UN Ambassador Gary Quinlan,
chairman of the Iran sanctions committee, told the council that "a number of
committee members expressed the view ... that the launches constituted a clear
violation of (UN sanctions) and that therefore all member states should
redouble their efforts to implement ballistic missile-related sanctions on
Iran." "At this stage some committee members cannot share this view," he added
in his latest three-month report to the council.
The tests involved the
launch of Iranian Shahab missiles in July 2012 during the "Great Prophet 7"
"These included launches of the Shahab 1 and 3,
Zelzal, Fateh-110 and Tondar missiles, as well as an anti-ship ballistic
missile, the Khalij Fars," the Iran Panel of Experts said in its May report to
the Iran sanctions committee.'HASTY CONCLUSIONS'
The panel said those
exercises were conducted by the Aerospace Force of the Islamic Revolutionary
Russia, diplomats said, led the dissenters in rejecting the
view that the tests were a clear violation of UN sanctions.
delegate explained Moscow's position to the Security Council, saying "hasty
conclusions not based on facts must be avoided." A Chinese delegate reiterated
Beijing's stance: "We are not in favor of increased new pressure or new
sanctions against Iran."
US Ambassador Rosemary DiCarlo told reporters, "We're
disappointed that the (Iran sanctions) committee was unable in this case to
state the obvious." "There is nothing ambiguous about the ban imposed by the
Security Council on such ... missile launches," she said. "Most of the Security
Council members agree with us on this issue." Quinlan's report also referred to
alleged arms embargo violations.
Western powers accuse Iran of supplying
arms to Syrian President Bashar Assad and militant groups like Lebanon's
Hezbollah, which has been fighting alongside Assad's troops in Syria to defeat
rebels in the civil war there.
"Several committee members stated that the
evidence presented in the report was sufficient to assert that Iran was in
violation of its obligations, illustrating a pattern of sanctions evasion
through arms smuggling in the Middle East," his report said.
committee members stated that the lack of stronger evidence as to the provenance
of the arms, such as documentation, justified the lack of a definitive
conclusion," his report added.
Russia and China were the "other committee
members" who opposed finding Tehran in clear violation of the UN ban on
Iranian arms exports, council diplomats said.