Pompeo skips Moscow to meet with European officials on Iran


Speaking to CNBC in an interview to be broadcast on Monday, Pompeo said the USA deployments were in response to intelligence about potential Iranian attacks and aimed both to deter them and to be able to respond if necessary.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo canceled his planned visit to Moscow and instead met with European counterparts in Brussels on Monday as the USA raises the specter of conflict with Iran.

The foreign ministers of Britain, France and Germany, joined by the European Union's foreign policy chief, made the appeal after Saudi Arabia said two oil tankers were sabotaged Sunday off the coast of the United Arab Emirates, one as it was heading to pick up Saudi oil to take to the United States.

The Pentagon announced Friday that it is deploying an amphibious assault ship and a Patriot missile battery to the Middle East to bolster an aircraft carrier force sent to counter alleged threats from Iran.

Iran's announcement on Wednesday, related to curbs on its stockpiling of nuclear materials, was in response to US sanctions imposed following Trump's withdrawal of the United States from the accord with Tehran a year ago.

As a result, the top USA diplomat is scrapping a stop expected on Monday in Moscow.

European countries that were co-signatories to a nuclear accord between Tehran and six world powers have been racing to salvage the deal since the USA pulled out past year.

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Hunt warned of the importance of ensuring that Iran doesn't resume banned atomic activities, saying that "if Iran becomes a nuclear power, its neighbours are likely to want to become nuclear powers. This would be a massive step in the wrong direction".

The Europeans have set up a complicated barter-type system to skirt direct financial transactions with Iran and so evade possible USA sanctions.

But he will still head to the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi on Tuesday to meet President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, the official added just before Pompeo left Washington.

Pompeo would reiterate US concerns about Russia's role in Venezuela and Syria and its breach of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, as well as Russian attempts to meddle in USA elections, the official told reporters in a preview of his trip. "They have chosen poorly by focusing on threats".

Asked if Pompeo was blaming Iran for the attacks, Hook said: "We discussed. what seemed to be attacks on commercial vessels that were anchored off Fujairah. we have been requested by the UAE to provide assistance in the investigation, which we are very glad to do".

Despite the tensions, the Europeans insist only the International Atomic Energy Agency can judge whether Iran remains in compliance with the nuclear agreement. A new report is due at the end of May.