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Iran violated UN resolution with missile test, expert report says

UN panel says October rocket launch broke rules on ballistic missile tests, hours after IAEA closed probe on Tehran's attempt to gain nuclear arms
The IAEA was investigating Iran's attempts to acquire a nuclear arsenal (AFP)

Iran violated a UN resolution by testing a ballistic missile in October, a UN panel has said, on the same day the organisation's nuclear watchdog closed its investigation on Tehran's attempts to acquire a nuclear arsenal.

The conclusions on the missile test, seen by the AFP news agency on Tuesday, stated that Iran's firing of the medium-range Emad missile on October 10 had contravened resolution 1929 prohibiting Tehran from conducting launches of ballistic missiles and those capable of delivering nuclear weapons.

The report by the UN Security Council sanctions committee, requested by the UK, US, Germany and France, could lead to sanctions against Iran.

"On the basis of its analysis and findings, the panel concludes the Emad launch a violation by Iran of paragraph 9 of Security Council resolution 1929," said the 11-page report.

Paragraph 9 states Iran "shall not undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using ballistic missile technology".

The release of the committee report came hours after the UN's watchdog on nuclear proliferation, the IAEA, announced that it had drawn a line under its 12-year investigation on Iranian attempts to acquire nuclear weapons, saying it considered the matter closed.

The announcement removes an important obstacle to implementing July's landmark deal with global powers, that shut down large parts of Iran's domestic nuclear programme for the lifting of crippling sanctions.

The IAEA's 35-member board said its investigation was "implemented in accordance with the agreed schedule" and that this "closes the board's consideration of the matter".

Iran's foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zaif welcomed the IAEA's ruling, telling the Tasnim news agency that it showed his country's nuclear ambitions never belligerent

"The purely peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear programme has once again been proven," he said. 

However, he hit back at the sanctions committee's report on Iran's missile test, saying "none of the Islamic Republic of Iran's missiles has been designed for a nuclear capability".

The British ambassador to the UN, Matthew Rycroft, said the missile test report would be discussed at a Security Council meeting later Tuesday. He stressed that the breach was not of the July agreement, but of previous resolutions.

Any recommended sanctions could be vetoed by the permanent members of the UN Security Council, including Iran's ally Russia.

The closing of the IAEA investigation marks an important step in the implementation of the broader deal on Iran's nuclear programme. Iran had previously warned it would not implement key parts of July's accord if the investigation was not closed.

However, the IAEA said it was still committed to monitoring Iranian activity, and its previous reports have not been fully conclusive.

In December the IAEA stated that Iran worked in the past on elements of a nuclear weapon. The IAEA said Iran conducted "a range of activities relevant to the development" of a nuclear bomb before the end of 2003 in a "coordinated effort", and that some activities continued until 2009.

It stressed however that these efforts "did not advance beyond feasibility and scientific studies".

The IAEA also stated, in a report last month, that it was "not in a position to provide credible assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran, and therefore to conclude that all nuclear material in Iran is in peaceful activities".

Iran has consistently denied any work - or interest in - acquiring nuclear weapons.

Despite Iran's "long history of concealment, denial and deception", the July deal was "forward-looking", the US ambassador to the IAEA, Henry Ensher, said on Tuesday.

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