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WASHINGTON: G7 nations are prepared to respond with severe new penalties that could include a ban on Iran Air flights to Europe if Iran proceeds with the transfer of close-range ballistic missiles to Russia, a senior U.S. official said on Friday.

“Our message today is, if Iran proceeds with providing Russia with ballistic missiles, the response from the international community will be swift and severe,” the official told a small group of reporters.

The United States joined G7 allies in issuing a statement warning the Islamic Republic not to proceed with the transfer in the aftermath of a Reuters report that Tehran has provided Russia with a large number of powerful surface-to-surface ballistic missiles for use in its invasion of Ukraine.

Chinese, Russian warships join naval exercise with Iran

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said one option under consideration “would have the effect of ending flights from Iran Air, its flagship state-owned carrier, into Europe - point being, this is not business as usual.”

The official said that while the United States had not been able to confirm that the transfer has already taken place as Reuters reported, there clearly was an effort by Tehran to advance negotiations with Moscow on the missiles.

U.N. Security Council restrictions on Iran’s export of some missiles, drones and other technologies expired in October. However, the United States and European Union retained sanctions on Iran’s ballistic missile program amid concerns over exports of weapons to its proxies in the Middle East and to Russia.

Ballistic missiles would be a powerful new weapon for Russia to use in its war in Ukraine.

US asks Iran to stop selling drones to Russia

The United States has said Iran has already provided Russia with drones, guided aerial bombs and artillery ammunition that Moscow has used to attack Ukrainian targets.

Washington has been on high alert for a year about what it has described as an unprecedented Russian-Iranian defense partnership that will help Moscow prolong its war in Ukraine as well as pose a threat to Iran’s neighbors.

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