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US official: Iran destabilizing region, heightening risks of arms race

Dr Yleem Poblete, Assistant Secretary of State for Arms Control, Verification, and Compliance at the U.S. Department of State. (Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO)/Released)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

Iran’s missile program is destabilizing the Middle East and raising the risk of a “regional arms race,” a senior U.S. arms control official has said.

“Iran’s missile program is a key contributor to increased tensions and destabilization in the region, increasing the risk of a regional arms race,” Yleem Poblete, assistant secretary of state for arms control, verification and compliance, told the UN-sponsored Conference on Disarmament in Geneva on March 20.

She added that “Iran must immediately cease activities related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, and halt the proliferation of missiles and missile technology to terror groups and other non-state actors.”

Poblete specifically cited Iran’s support for Huthi rebels in Yeman and the Hizballah militant group in Lebanon.

The United States has urged the United Nations Security Council to impose sanctions on Iran over its recent ballistic-missile test and launches of two satellites, saying they violate the world body’s resolutions.

Acting U.S. Ambassador Jonathan Cohen on March 7 condemned “Iran’s destabilizing activities” in a letter to Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and called on Tehran “to cease immediately all activities related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons.”

The statement cited a 2015 UN resolution that “called upon” Iran to refrain for up to eight years from tests of ballistic missiles designed to deliver nuclear weapons.

The United States has reimposed sanctions against Iran after withdrawing from a landmark 2015 agreement under which Tehran agreed to restrictions on its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.

President Donald Trump said that Tehran was not living up to the “spirit” of the accord because of its support of militants in the region and for continuing to test nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.

Tehran has denied it supports terrorist activity and says its missile and nuclear programs are strictly for civilian purposes.

Poblete said Iran has provided ballistic missiles to the Huthis, who on several occasions fired them into Saudi Arabia.

“We are committed to aggressively countering Iran’s regional proliferation of ballistic missiles and its unlawful arms transfers,” she added.

Iran has denied it supplied the missiles to the rebels despite evidence presented by Washington and Riyadh indicating it had.