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US Would 'Welcome' Iran Engagement, Under Certain Circumstances

FILE - Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken, shown testifying on Capitol Hill.

Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken says the U.S. would welcome broader engagement with Iran, if an Iran nuclear agreement wound up helping Iran change its approach to the region and to the world.

At a Washington forum, late Wednesday, Blinken said broader engagement between Washington and Tehran was not a primary goal or anticipated result of the ongoing Iran nuclear talks. But, he added, that if an agreement led Iran to conclude that adhering to the "norms and principles of the international system" would be beneficial to advancing its interests, that would be a positive step.

"If it is what flows from it, we will work with it," said Blinken. "We would welcome it."

Blinken commented just days after he returned from a trip to the Middle East and Africa. He said during his trip, which included stops in Saudi Arabia, Oman and the United Arab Emirates, officials expressed concern about Iran's destabilizing impact on the region.

Blinken said if the prospect of an Iran with nuclear weapons is removed, then it would remove the "greatest potential source of instability in the region." He said if Iran developed nuclear weapons, some of its neighbors would be prompted to follow suit - a move that he said could fuel an arms race that would result in greater regional instability.

The deputy secretary said that, during his trip, some U.S. partners in the Middle East also expressed concern about Iran's influence in Yemen, where a Saudi-led coalition is fighting Iran-backed Houthi rebels.

The rebels seized control of Yemen's capital, Sana'a, last September. In February, the country's President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi fled to Saudi Arabia as the rebels were closing in on his residence in the city of Aden.

"Iran is clearly taking advantage of the situation," said Blinken.

But, he added that the U.S. does not believe the conflict was being commanded and controlled by Iran.

He said if Tehran truly had an interest in ending the conflict, it would stop supplying and supporting the Houthis and use its leverage with the rebels to encourage them to return to political dialogue.