March 14, 2016 / 1:01 AM / 2 years ago

Australia's foreign minister to raise missile tests with Iranian counterpart

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said on Monday she will challenge her Iranian counterpart when they meet this week over reported missile tests during a military exercise that drew the threat of a diplomatic response from the United States.

Ballistic missiles are launched and tested in an undisclosed location, Iran, March 9, 2016. REUTERS/Mahmood Hosseini/TIMA

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards test-fired two ballistic missiles last Wednesday, the Fars and Tasnim news agencies reported.

“The onus is on Iran to prove that it is on its way back to being a responsible international player,” Bishop said in Fiji, where she was discussing aid after a recent cyclone.

Bishop is due to meet Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in Canberra on Tuesday. Zarif is traveling to Australia via New Zealand.

Iran is coming under stronger diplomatic pressure after the ballistic missile tests, with the United States intending to raise the issue during U.N Security Council consultations this week.

Bishop said she intends to raise human rights in Iran with Zarif in addition to the missile tests.

Zarif was challenged on the issue during a meeting with New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully on Sunday. McCully and Zarif also discussed Middle Eastern security and trade, according to a statement from McCully’s office.

Australia will also use Zarif’s visit to discuss a deal that could see Iranian asylum seekers returned to their homeland. Australia is seeking guarantees from Iran that those returned will not be persecuted.

Reporting by Colin Packham; Editing by Paul Tait

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