WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States issued a pre-emptive warning to Iran on Thursday against pursuing three planned space rocket launches that it said would violate a U.N. Security Council resolution because they use ballistic missile technology.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Iran had announced plans to launch in the coming months three rockets, called Space Launch Vehicles (SLV), which he said incorporate technology that is "virtually identical" to that used in intercontinental ballistic missiles.
"The United States will not stand by and watch the Iranian regime's destructive policies place international stability and security at risk," Pompeo said in a statement.
"We advise the regime to reconsider these provocative launches and cease all activities related to ballistic missiles in order to avoid deeper economic and diplomatic isolation."
Iranian Deputy Defense Minister General Qassem Taqizadeh in late November was quoted by Iranian media as saying that Iran was planning to launch three satellites into space soon.
"The satellites have been made by domestic experts and will be put on various orbits," Taqizadeh said.
Pompeo said such rocket launches would violate United Nations Security Council Resolution 2231, which endorsed a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers. It calls upon Iran not to undertake activities related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such technology. It stops short of explicitly barring such activity.
U.S. President Donald Trump decided in May to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal.
Pompeo said Iran has launched ballistic missiles numerous times since the U.N. resolution was adopted. He said it test-fired a medium-range ballistic missile capable of carrying multiple warheads on Dec. 1.
"The United States has continuously cautioned that ballistic missile and SLV launches by the Iranian regime have a destabilising effect on the region and beyond," Pompeo said. "France, Germany, the United Kingdom, and many nations from around the world have also expressed deep concern."
In July 2017, Iran launched a rocket it said could deliver a satellite into space, an act the U.S. State Department called provocative. Earlier that month, the United States slapped new economic sanctions on Iran over its ballistic missile programme.
Iran says its space programme is peaceful, but Western experts suspect it may be a cover for developing military missile technologies.
(Reporting by Doina Chiacu and Lesley Wroughton; Additional reporting by Dubai newsroom; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)