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Pompeo Pushes Hard Line On Iran During Middle East Visit

RFE/RL April 29, 2018

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has arrived in Israel, the next leg of his first diplomatic trip to the Middle East during which he has been briefing U.S. allies about President Donald Trump's threat to quit the Iran nuclear deal.

Pompeo met on April 29 with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for talks that centered on Iran.

"We have just had very productive, very focused conversations on our common interests and how to defend our common values," Netanyahu said at a joint press conference following the meeting. "I want to thank again President Trump for his historic decision on recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital."

Pompeo said Trump had "a comprehensive Iran plan that is designed to counter the full array of threats emanating from Tehran." He added that the United States was "deeply concerned about Iran's dangerous escalation of threats to Israel and the region."

Earlier in the day, Pompeo met with Saudi Arabia's King Salman after arriving in Riyadh the previous evening and dining with Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman.

After his talks in Israel, Pompeo will travel on to neighboring Jordan.

After the meetings in Riyadh, Pompeo accused Iran of destabilizing the Middle East with its support for Syria's President Bashar al-Assad and for Shi'ite rebels in Yemen.

'Vast Scope' Of Terrorism

Speaking at a joint press conference with Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir, Pompeo said Iran "supports proxy militias and terrorist groups."

"It is an arms dealer to the Huthi rebels in Yemen and Iran conducts cyberhacking campaigns. And it supports the murderous Assad regime," Pompeo said. "Unlike the prior administration we will not neglect the vast scope of Iran's terrorism."

Trump is due to decide on May 12 whether to reimpose sanctions on Tehran -- a move that could jeopardize the 2015 nuclear accord between Iran and six world powers.

Britain, France, Germany, Russia, and China, which also signed the accord, have urged Washington to remain part of the deal, saying it is the best way to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

But Trump says Tehran has violated the "spirit" of the agreement by continuing to test ballistic missiles and by fomenting insurgent violence in the Middle East, allegations Iran denies.

The accord provides Iran with sanctions relief in return for curbs on its nuclear program.

Trump's national security adviser, John Bolton, told Fox News on April 29 that Trump "has made no decision on the nuclear deal, whether to stay in or get out."

Meanwhile, the office of U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May issued a statement the same day saying May, French President Emmanuel Macron, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel had agreed that the nuclear deal was the best way of curbing Iran's nuclear program, but added that it could need to be broadened to cover other issues, including ballistic missiles.

"They committed to continue working closely together and with the U.S. on how to tackle the range of challenges that Iran poses," the statement from May's office said.

Diplomatic Push

A senior U.S. official says Pompeo is pushing the international community during his Middle East trip to impose new sanctions on people or entities that aid Iran's missile program.

"We are urging nations around the world to sanction any individuals and entities associated with Iran's missile program, and it has also been a big part of discussions with Europeans," Brian Hook, a senior policy adviser traveling with Pompeo, said on April 28 in Saudi Arabia.

"Iran's missiles prolong war and suffering in the Middle East, they threaten our security and economic interests and they especially threaten Saudi Arabia and Israel," he said.

Pompeo, who was sworn in last week as the top U.S. diplomat, arrived in Riyadh as part of a Middle East trip following his attendance at a NATO foreign ministers meeting in Brussels.

Pompeo said in a news conference from Brussels on April 27 that "no decision" had been made yet on continued U.S. participation in the accord. But he said unless substantial changes are made, it is "unlikely" Trump will remain in the deal.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, and dpa

Source: https://www.rferl.org/a/pompeo-pushes-iran- hard-line-mideast-visit/29198891.html

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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