TERRAN – Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Tuesday refused to confirm whether his country recently conducted a missile test, saying the Iranian missile program is not part of a 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.
The White House said on Monday that it is studying the details of an Iranian ballistic missile test.
During a joint news conference with visiting French counterpart Jean-Marc Ayrault on Tuesday, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was asked if Iran had conducted a recent missile test.
“The missile issue is not part of the nuclear deal. As all signatories to the nuclear deal have announced, the missile issue is not a part of” the deal, he said.
Iran’s missiles, he added are, “not designed for the capability of carrying a nuclear warhead … Our ballistic missile was designed to carry a normal warhead in the field of legitimate defense.”
A U.S. defense official said Monday that the missile test ended with a “failed” re-entry into earth’s atmosphere.
The official had no other details, including the type of missile. State Department spokesman Mark Toner said the U.S. was looking into whether the ballistic missile test violates a 2015 United Nations Security Council resolution.
Zarif on Tuesday said he hopes the issue is not used as, “an excuse for some political games by the new U.S. administration. The Iranian people would never allow their defense to be subject to the permission of others.”
Iran has long boasted of having missiles that can travel 2,000 kilometers (1,243 miles), placing much of the Middle East, including Israel, in range. Iran says its missiles are the key to deterring a U.S. or Israeli attack.
In May 2016, Iran’s Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan issued a vague denial after a media outlet close to the Revolutionary Guard reported that the country had test-fired a ballistic missile with a 2,000-kilometer range. The powerful Revolutionary Guard is in charge of Iran’s ballistic missile program.
Deghan said that no missile had been tested “with the range that was published in the media,” but he did not deny that a ballistic missile had been tested.
In March, Iran test-fired two ballistic missiles – one emblazoned with the phrase “Israel must be wiped out” in Hebrew – setting off an international outcry.
A 2015 Security Council resolution adopted after Iran reached its nuclear deal with world powers calls on Iran not to take any actions related to ballistic missiles “designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons.”
Zarif has said that its ballistic missile launches are not banned under U.N. Security Council Resolution 2231 because the prohibition only applies to missiles specifically designed to carry nuclear warheads. Iran has long argued that general missile tests are not banned, nor are those applying to ones capable of carrying nuclear warheads – so long as that was not their designated purpose.
The U.S., which still maintains its own set of sanctions against Iran, has argued that previous ballistic missile launches are in defiance of the ban.
Meanwhile, the European Union called on Tehran to “refrain from activities which deepen mistrust.”
EU foreign policy spokeswoman Nabila Massrali said that a ballistic missile test would not be a violation of the nuclear deal with world powers. However she said it was “inconsistent” with Resolution 2231.
“Whether it constitutes a violation is for the Security Council to determine,” she said.
By NASSER KARIMI – The Associated Press
Associated Press writer Raf Casert in Brussels contributed to this report.