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Pompeo: US, Europe Can Cooperate on Iran Despite Differences


Poland's Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo talk during a Middle East summit in Warsaw, Poland, Feb. 14, 2019.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Thursday that the United States and Europe could still work together on Iran, despite differences over what the United States calls the world's "leading state sponsor of terror."

Pompeo, speaking at a diplomatic conference in Warsaw, said "there was not a defender of Iran in the room," which he called proof that Europe and the U.S. still shared concerns about Iran's nuclear activities.

Polish Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz said Europe and the U.S. agreed that Iran was a threat to international security but were arguing over what to do about it.

Earlier in the day, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence accused Britain, France and Germany of trying to circumvent U.S. sanctions on Iran. He said the European nations "have led the effort to create mechanisms to break up (U.S.) sanctions."

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence speaks at a conference on Mideast peace in Warsaw, Poland, Feb. 14, 2019.
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence speaks at a conference on Mideast peace in Warsaw, Poland, Feb. 14, 2019.

Pence called the improvised barter system that allows countries to avoid direct financial transactions with Iran "an ill-advised step that will only strengthen Iran, weaken the [European Union], and create still more distance between Europe and the United States."

Pence's harsh words followed disputes over trade and international security that have chilled relations between the U.S. and Europe.

The United States withdrew from an Iran nuclear deal and reimposed economic sanctions against the Islamic Republic. The agreement had lifted sanctions in exchange for Iran's stopping its nuclear weapons work. Other signatories (Iran, China, the EU, France, Russia, Britain and Germany) remain in the pact.

German Deputy Foreign Minister Niels Annen told reporters that Germany wanted to combine pressure on Iran with international cooperation in the effort to end Iran's nuclear arms program.

Author and Heritage Foundation scholar Peter Brookes said supporters of the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement had hoped the country would change its international behavior in exchange for access to the international economy, which could benefit the Iranian people.

Speaking to VOA Persian, he said, "It [Iran] has not done that."

Other objectives

Brookes said the deal loosened some sanctions on Iran's economy, easing problems. But instead of spending its new money on infrastructure and citizens' needs, the cash went for missiles, a military buildup and "adventurism" in Yemen and Syria.

He said concerns about Iran go far beyond nuclear weapons, including two recent terrorist plots aimed at targets in Europe, worries about its energy policy, human rights and maritime security.

Representatives from about 60 nations attended the Warsaw meeting, including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. There were no representatives from Iran, Russia or the Palestinian territories.

As Iran commemorates the 40th anniversary of its Islamic Revolution this week, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told reporters in Tehran that the conference was "dead on arrival." He dismissed the meeting as "another attempt by the United States to pursue an obsession with Iran that is not well-founded."

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