Iran conducted multiple ballistic missile tests on Tuesday in what it said was a display of "deterrent power," defying U.S. sanctions just imposed earlier this year to try to disrupt its missile program, reported Agence France Presse
State media announced that short-, medium- and long-range precision guided missiles were fired from several sites to show the country's "all-out readiness to confront threats" against its territorial integrity.
Pictures of the launches were broadcast and reports said the armaments used had ranges of 300 kilometers (190 miles), 500 km, 800 km and 2,000 km.
The United States hit Iran with fresh sanctions on its missile program in January, 24 hours after separate sanctions related to Tehran's nuclear activities had been lifted under a landmark deal with world powers.
The State Department said on Tuesday if reports of fresh Iranian ballistic missile tests are confirmed it planned to raise the issue at the U.N. Security Council and push for an "appropriate response."
"We're aware of and following closely the reports that Iran has just conducted several ballistic missile tests," said State Department spokesman Mark Toner, saying that such tests would not violate the July 14 Iran nuclear agreement. "If confirmed, we intend to raise the matter in the U.N. Security Council."
"We will also encourage a serious review of the incident and press for an appropriate response," toner added. "We also continue to aggressively apply our unilateral tools to counter threats from Iran's missile program."
The latest tests, during an exercise named "The Power of Velayat," a reference to the religious doctrine of the Islamic republic's leadership, were undertaken by the Revolutionary Guards and its Aerospace wing, According to AFP.
Sepah News, the Guards' official media service, carried a statement confirming the tests, which come less than two weeks after elections in Iran delivered gains to politicians aligned with Hassan Rouhani, the country's moderate president.
The Revolutionary Guards report to Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, not Rouhani, and their influence dwarfs that of the army and other armed forces.
New ballistic missile tests capable of carrying nuclear weapons are a concern and would violate U.N. Security Council resolutions, a French diplomatic source told Reuters on Tuesday.
"We are checking this information. Iran's ballistic weapons program constitutes a source of preoccupation," a French diplomatic source said.
"The design by Iran of missiles capable of carrying nuclear weapons would contravene U.N. Security Council resolution 2231 which calls on Iran to abstain from all activity in this field," the source added.
The source said it was too early to discuss what measures could be taken if the tests proved true.
Ballistic missile tests have been seen as a means for Iran's military to demonstrate that the nuclear deal will have no impact on its plans, which is says are for domestic defense only.
Major General Ali Jafari, the Guards' top commander, and Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, spoke about the tests on television, with the latter downplaying the effect of U.S. efforts to disrupt its activities.
"Our main enemies, the Americans, who mutter about plans, have activated new missile sanctions against the Islamic Republic of Iran and are seeking to weaken the country’s missile capability," Hajizadeh said.
"The Guards and other armed forces are defenders of the revolution and the country will not pay a toll to anyone... and will stand against their excessive demands."
Iran's ballistic missile program has been contentious since the nuclear deal with the United States and five other powers was struck in Vienna on July 14 last year.
On Oct. 11, Tehran conducted the first of two ballistic missile tests which angered Washington. State television weeks later aired unprecedented footage of underground missile storage bunkers.
A U.N. panel said in December that the tests breached previous resolutions aimed at stopping Tehran from developing missiles capable of carrying a nuclear warhead.
Iran has always denied seeking an atomic weapon and argues that its missiles would never be designed to, nor ever carry, the bomb.
The nuclear deal was heralded by moderates such as Rouhani, who staked his reputation on the negotiations, but hardliners in Tehran said it damaged national interests.
Announcing the new missile sanctions on Jan. 17, one day after the nuclear deal was implemented, President Barack Obama said "profound differences" with Tehran remained over its "destabilizing activities".
Five Iranians and a network of companies based in the United Arab Emirates and China were added to an American blacklist.
The White House had first threatened to impose the measures in December but withdrew them after Rouhani hit out at both their timing and intent. Missiles were not part of the nuclear agreement.
Asked before the missile sanctions were announced how Iran would react to fresh measures against it, Rouhani said: "Any action will be met by a reaction."
Those measures came after four Iranian-Americans, including Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian, left Tehran following their release in a prisoner swap with the United States. The exchange took place on the same day the nuclear deal came into force.
Material from AFP and Reuters was used in this report.
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