U.S. Urges EU Sanctions on Iran Over 'Escalating Missile Threat'

U.S. Urges EU Sanctions on Iran Over 'Escalating Missile Threat'

U.S. Urges EU Sanctions on Iran Over 'Escalating Missile Threat'

The FINANCIAL -- The U.S. special representative for Iran has urged the European Union to impose new sanctions targeting Iran's ballistic-missile program, calling it a "grave and escalating threat."

Brian Hook made the call on December 3, two days after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo condemned what he described as Iran's testing of a medium-range ballistic missile "capable of carrying multiple warheads" and striking parts of Europe and the entire Middle East.

The Iranian military has said it will keep conducting missile tests despite Western condemnation, according to RFE/RL.

The latest statements from Pompeo and Hook come amid heightened tensions between Tehran and Washington, which earlier this year imposed tough sanctions on Iran's economy.

The move was part of a broader U.S. campaign to pressure Iran over what the President Donald Trump's administration describes as its "malign conduct" such as missile development and support for militant groups in the Middle East.

Tehran has repeatedly rejected negotiations over its missile program and insists the missiles are only to be used for defensive purposes.

Speaking aboard Pompeo's plane as he traveled to Brussels for a NATO meeting, Hook told reporters that Washington "would like to see the European Union move sanctions that target Iran's missile program."

The U.S. envoy said that Trump's campaign of "maximum pressure" on Tehran since withdrawing from the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers in May "can be effective if more nations can join us in those."

"It is a grave and escalating threat, and nations around the world, not just Europe, need to do everything they can to be targeting Iran's missile program," Hook said.

He also said that "progress" was being made on getting NATO allies to consider a proposal to target individuals and entities that play key roles in Iran's missile program.

European countries have criticized Trump's decision to withdraw the United States from the Iran nuclear deal and are working to preserve the accord that lifted sanctions on Tehran in exchange for curbs on its nuclear activities, even though they have also criticized Iranian positions on other issues.

In a December 1 statement, Pompeo charged that Iran's testing of a medium-range ballistic missile violated UN Security Council Resolution 2231, which endorsed the Iran nuclear deal.

Pompeo warned that Iran's "missile testing and missile proliferation is growing," and called on the country to "cease immediately all activities related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons."

The French Foreign Ministry issued a similar call, condemning the Iranian missile test as "provocative and destabilizing."

Iran's military did not confirm or deny it had tested a new missile, but said it will "continue to both develop and test missiles."

"Missile tests...are carried out for defense and the country's deterrence, and we will continue this," the semiofficial Tasnim news agency quoted Brigadier General Abolfazl Shekarchi, a spokesman for Iran's armed forces, as saying on December 2.

Shekarchi said such activity "is outside the framework of [nuclear] negotiations and part of our national security, for which we will not ask any country's permission."

With reporting by AFP, AP, and Reuters