By Michelle Nichols
NEW YORK, June 30 (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pushed the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday to indefinitely extend an arms embargo on Iran before it expires in October, arguing that the country is not a "responsible democracy" and must be held accountable.
Earlier this month, the United States circulated a draft resolution on the measure to the 15-member council, but council veto-powers Russia and China have already signaled their opposition to the move.
"Don't just take it from the United States, listen to countries in the region. From Israel to the Gulf, countries in the Middle East – who are most exposed to Iran's predations – are speaking with one voice: Extend the arms embargo," Pompeo told a virtual Security Council meeting.
"This council has a responsibility to listen to them," he said.
U.S. President Donald Trump's administration has long argued that the arms embargo on Iran should not be lifted. The arms embargo is set to end in mid-October under Tehran's 2015 nuclear deal with Britain, Germany, France, China, Russia and the administration of Trump's predecessor, Barack Obama.
"Iran is not a responsible democracy like Australia or India," Pompeo told the council.
The Security Council was meeting on Tuesday to discuss the latest report by U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on implementation of the arms embargo and other restrictions still in place under the nuclear deal.
Guterres' report said that cruise missiles used in several attacks on oil facilities and an international airport in Saudi Arabia last year were of "Iranian origin."
If Washington is unsuccessful in extending the arms embargo, it has threatened to trigger at the Security Council a return of all U.N. sanctions on Iran under the nuclear deal, even though it quit the accord in 2018. Diplomats say Washington would face a tough, messy battle.
Iran has breached parts of the nuclear deal in response to the U.S. withdrawal and Washington's reimposition of sanctions.
Britain, France and Germany said earlier this month that they believed lifting the arms embargo would "have major implications for regional security and stability" and were trying to reach a compromise between Russia and China and the United States.
However, the European countries also said they would not back U.S. efforts to unilaterally trigger a return of all U.N. sanctions on Iran. (Reporting by Michelle Nichols; editing by Jonathan Oatis)