US urges UN to focus on 'chief culprit' Iran





United Nations (United States) (AFP) - The United States on Thursday urged the UN Security Council to make Iran's "incredibly destructive" activities its Middle East priority and devote less attention to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

US Ambassador Nikki Haley branded Iran the "chief culprit" of regional conflicts and vowed to work with Washington's partners to demand Iran comply with UN resolutions.

Haley cited Iran's support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, weapons supplies to Huthi rebels in Yemen, training of Shiite militias in Iraq and the presence of the Tehran-backed Hezbollah militia in Lebanon as destabilizing.

"The Israel-Palestinian issue is an important one, deserving of attention", Haley said, adding that there was "surely no lack of attention" to the conflict at the United Nations.

"The incredibly destructive nature of Iranian and Hezbollah activities throughout the Middle East demands much more of our attention," she said.

"It should become this council's priority in the region."

The US call to shift the focus to Iran drew a cool response from other UN Security Council permanent members.

France, Russia and China made no mention of Iran during the council's monthly meeting on the Middle East, instead emphasizing the importance of an Israeli-Palestinian settlement to bring regional peace.

Haley's remarks came a day after US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson branded the Iran nuclear deal a failure and two days after President Donald Trump ordered a review of the lifting of sanctions under the agreement.

Reached in 2015, the nuclear deal between Iran and world powers was hailed as historic, opening up a new era of relations with Tehran. But the Trump administration has signalled it could shift course.

- Erasing the question -

Addressing the Security Council, Iran's ambassador hit back, accusing the United States of waging a "misleading propaganda campaign" against his country.

"The US and the Israeli regime want to remove the Palestinian issue -- that is central to all conflicts in the Middle East -- from these open debates," said Iranian Ambassador Gholamali Khoshroo.

"By blaming all others but the occupier, the US seeks to erase the question, rather than addressing it."

The Security Council holds a meeting a month on the Middle East and the Palestinian question, but also holds three meetings on Syria and regular sessions on Yemen, Libya and Lebanon.

Haley has repeatedly accused the top UN body of being biased against Israel.

Describing the monthly meetings as "Israel-bashing sessions," Haley said the debates "do nothing" to bridge differences but were instead pushing Israel and the Palestinians further apart.

During his briefing to the council, the UN's Middle East coordinator, Nickolay Mladenov, touched on Israel, the Palestinians, Syria, Lebanon, Libya and Yemen, but made no mention of Iran.

Haley told reporters as she left the meeting that the United States would continue to put the focus on Iran to "make sure everyone knows that in any sort of dirty water that we find, Iran's fingers are in it."

Trump's administration has fiercely criticized the government of ex-president Barack Obama for refusing in December to use its UN veto to block a resolution demanding Israel halt expansion of Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank.

A vocal supporter of Israel, Haley has branded the resolution, which was adopted after the United States abstained, a "terrible mistake."

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