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UN divided on Iran sanctions breach

The United Nations Security Council has refused to back a report by a panel of experts which unanimously concluded that Iran broke UN sanctions when it launched ballistic missiles a year ago.

Australia's UN ambassador Gary Quinlan, who chairs the committee monitoring sanctions on Iran, did not say which countries were opposed in his briefing to the council. But diplomats said Russia was most vocal in its opposition and was supported by China.

Mr Quinlan told the council that a number of members backed the panel's view that Iran's launch of Shahab-1 and Shahab-3 missiles in a war-game exercise in July 2012 "constituted a clear violation" of sanctions, and therefore all UN member states "should redouble efforts to implement ballistic missile-related sanctions on Iran".

He said the sanctions committee - which includes all 15 council members - wrote to Iran on April 12 asking for comment within 15 days on the panel's conclusion. Iran has not replied and "the committee is currently considering additional follow up actions", he said.

The security council has imposed four rounds of sanctions against Iran because of concerns it is seeking to develop nuclear weapons and its refusal to suspend uranium enrichment. The division over the missile launches indicates a reluctance by Moscow and Beijing to take further action, especially as a new president, Hasan Rouhani, will be sworn in on August 4.

In another incident, Mr Quinlan said the panel concluded that Iran broke - or probably broke - sanctions by shipping weapons to Yemeni rebels in January that were seized by the government.

He said several council members stated that the panel's evidence "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". But he said others "stated that the lack of stronger evidence as to the provenance of the arms, such as documentation, justified the lack of a definitive conclusion".

Mr Quinlan said the sanctions committee sent a letter to Iran on May 21 "bringing to its attention the panel's conclusion, expressing concern about the panel's findings and asking for its comment ... within 15 days". Iran's Foreign Ministry has denied it exported the weapons. But to date the government had not responded to the committee, Mr Quinlan said.

Acting US ambassador Rosemary DiCarlo said the latest report from the International Atomic Energy Agency "again shows Iran moving full speed ahead with its prohibited activities" and urged the sanctions committee and the security council to take action in response. "Just last January, Iran was caught sending shoulder-launched anti-aircraft missiles, high-grade explosives, and other arms to Yemen," Ms DiCarlo said. "This was more than just a sanctions violation. It was an aggressive act to undermine Yemen's transition."

The panel of experts, appointed by UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon and approved by the council, investigates and reports to the committee on implementation and alleged breaches of sanctions against Iran.

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