UN Security Council
UN Security CouncilReuters

The United States on Thursday urged the UN Security Council on Thursday to impose new sanctions on Iran, saying its recent missile-related launches could be capable of delivering nuclear weapons and risk a regional arms race, reports The Associated Press.

Acting US ambassador Jonathan Cohen condemned "Iran's destabilizing activities" in a letter to Secretary-General Antonio Guterres obtained by AP.

Cohen called on Tehran "to cease immediately all activities related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons."

The Trump administration last year pulled the United States out of the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers, and reimposed US sanctions on Iran in November that it had eased after the agreement, including targeting its vital oil sector.

Iran’s ballistic missile launches, which were not covered by the 2015 nuclear deal, remain a concern for the West.

Iran last month has twice attempted to launch a satellite into space without success.

The launches came despite a warning by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for Iran to cease its efforts to develop ballistic missiles. Pompeo demanded that Iran drop its plans for a space launch, saying such actions would defy UN Security Council Resolution 2231.

Cohen in his letter said Security Council members should "join us in imposing real consequences on Iran for its flagrant defiance of the council's demands and bring back tougher international restrictions to deter Iran's missile program," according to AP.

He cited Security Council Resolution 2231, which endorsed the nuclear deal, and which "calls upon" Iran "not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons" - but does not require Tehran to halt such activity.

Cohen cited Iran's December 1 launch of a medium-range ballistic missile on December 1, 2018 and its attempt to place satellites into orbit on January 15 and February 5 "using its Simorgh and Safir space launch vehicles, respectively."

He said the missile launched on December 1 was designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons and the space launch vehicles used "technologies related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of deliveries nuclear weapons."

Iran denies its ballistic missile tests violate Resolution 2331. President Hassan Rouhani has stressed in the past that Iran will continue to produce missiles for its defense and does not consider that a violation of international agreements.

The US faces an uphill struggle in getting Security Council approval for new sanctions on Iran, especially because of the US withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear agreement. The nuclear deal is still supported by the five other parties - Russia, China, Britain and France, who are all veto-wielding Security Council members, and Germany.