The United States and Russia clashed at a United Nations Security Council meeting on March 14 over whether Iran's test-firing of ballistic missiles last week violated a UN resolution.
Russia said after the closed-door meeting that the tests did not violate a resolution adopted by the council after the Iran nuclear deal was signed last year that "called" on Iran not to launch any ballistic missiles capable of delivering a nuclear weapon.
But the United States insisted the tests violated the resolution and should prompt additional sanctions by the council.
U.S. Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power said the missiles "were designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons" and called the test launches "dangerous, destabilizing, and provocative."
But Russia's UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said Moscow has seen no proof that the missiles could carry nuclear weapons, and thus he sees no violation of the resolution.
Iran's UN Mission said that the country "has never sought to acquire nuclear weapons and never will in the future." It said the missile tests "were part of ongoing efforts of its armed forces to strengthen its legitimate defense capabilities...against security threats."
Churkin added that Russia's stance that there is no violation is based on "an important legal distinction."
"A call is different from a ban, so legally you cannot violate a call. You can comply with a call or you can ignore the call, but you cannot violate a call," he said.
Power accused Russia of "lawyering its way to look for reasons not to act rather than stepping up and being prepared to shoulder our collective responsibility" to ensure Iran's compliance with terms of the nuclear deal.
Power said the missile tests merit a response from the Security Council, despite Russia's hint at using its veto power over council actions.
Powers said the United States will provide information made public by Iran that shows the rockets were capable of carrying nuclear weapons and thus violated Resolution 2231.
"So we're not going to give up at the Security Council, no matter the quibbling that we heard today about this and that, and we also can consider, of course, our own appropriate national response," she said.
Churkin said he did not hear any objection from other council members to his statement toward the end of the meeting that "there is no legal violation of 2231," and thus he didn't see a need for further action.
Some council members did raise the impact of the launches on stability and security in the region, however.
Before the meeting, Israel's UN Ambassador Danny Danon urged the council to consider the threat to wipe Israel off the Earth, which was written on the side of one of the missiles.
"If it was written that England, France, Japan, or any other country, must be removed from the Earth, would the Security Council sit silently?" Danon asked.
He warned that "ignoring Iran's violations will give a green light for continuing nuclear missile tests."
With reporting by AP and dpa
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