Latest Houthi missile fired at Saudi Arabia 'bears hallmarks' of Iran arms attacks: US

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Customers at a coffee shop look at a cloud of smoke in the sky after a loud boom in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. PHOTO: NYTIMES

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said a missile fired by Yemen's Houthi group toward Saudi Arabia on Tuesday "bears all the hallmarks of previous attacks using Iranian-provided weapons" as she pushed the UN Security Council to act.

Saudi air defenses shot down the ballistic missile and there were no reports of casualties or damage. In contrast, a UN human rights spokesman said coalition air strikes had killed at least 136 noncombatants in war-torn Yemen since Dec. 6.

Saudi-led forces, backing Yemen's government, have fought the Iran-allied Houthis in Yemen's more than two-year-long war. Iran has denied supplying the Houthis with weapons, saying the US and Saudi allegations are "baseless and unfounded."

"We must all act cooperatively to expose the crimes of the Teheran regime and do whatever is needed to make sure they get the message. If we do not, then Iran will bring the world deeper into a broadening regional conflict," Haley told the council.

Haley said she was exploring, with some council colleagues, several options for pressuring Iran to "adjust their behavior." However, Haley is likely to struggle to convince some members, like veto powers Russia and China, that UN action is needed.

Russia's Deputy UN Ambassador Vladimir Safronkov told council on Tuesday: "We need to abandon the language of threats and sanctions and to start using the instruments of dialogue and concentrate on broadening cooperation and mutual trust."

Most sanctions on Iran were lifted at the start of 2016 under the nuclear deal brokered by world powers and enshrined in a UN Security Council resolution.

The resolution still subjects Teheran to a UN arms embargo and other restrictions that are technically not part of the nuclear deal.

Haley said the Security Council could strengthen the provisions in that resolution or adopt a new resolution banning Iran from all activities related to ballistic missiles. Under the current resolution, Iran is "called upon" to refrain from work on ballistic missiles designed to deliver nuclear weapons for up to eight years.

Some states argue that the language of the resolution does not make it obligatory.

"We could explore sanctions on Iran in response to its clear violations of the Yemen arms embargo," Haley said. "We could hold the IRGC (Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps) accountable for its violations of numerous Security Council resolutions."

A separate UN resolution on Yemen bans the supply of weapons to Houthi leaders and "those acting on their behalf or at their direction".

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