May 18, 2018 / 3:18 PM / 7 months ago

Pompeo to call for broad support to pressure Iran

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will outline a “diplomatic road map” and call for broad support from European and other allies to apply pressure on Iran to force it back to the negotiating table, a senior U.S. official said on Friday, as Washington seeks to chart a course after it pulled out of a landmark nuclear deal.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during a joint press availability with South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha after their meeting at the State Department in Washington, U.S., May 11, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Rebuffing appeals from France, Germany and Britain, U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew the United States 10 days ago from the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and six major powers and ordered that sanctions be reimposed on Tehran.

In his first foreign policy speech on Monday, Pompeo will call for broad support to address “the totality of Iran’s threats,” said Brian Hook, senior U.S. policy advisor.

Hook said U.S. officials hoped economic pressure from renewed sanctions would lead Iran back to the table as it did a few years ago, leading to the 2015 nuclear accord.

But it was not immediately clear whether the Europeans would support the plan as they try to salvage investment and trade ties with Tehran that followed the accord. nL8N1SG2YJ]

Hook said Washington was seeking a diplomatic outcome with Iran and sanctions were part of that.

“The goal of our effort is to bring all necessary pressure to bear on Iran to change its behaviour and to pursue a new framework that can resolve our concerns,” Hook told reporters.

“We very much want to be, to have a kind of up-tempo diplomacy, one that’s very focussed and very determined to achieve our national security objectives,” he said, adding: “We need a new ... framework that’s going to address the totality of Iran threats.”

A senior European official whose country is party to the deal said there were concerns that the Trump administration was interested in pursuing “the maximum pressure and brutal show of strength idea” instead of negotiating.

“We say that there has to be a negotiating method but if they are purely in the maximum pressure and brutal show of strength idea and they believe it will work because they believe it worked with North Korea then we will have a major problem,” the official said.

SANCTIONS PRESSURE

The threat of U.S. sanctions has already forced some European companies to pull back from Iran. German lender DZ Bank said it will suspend its financial transactions with Iran in July, while French gas and power group Engie also said it would end its contracts in Iran by November.

This week, the U.S. Treasury imposed sanctions against Iranian finance officials and financiers it said were linked to Iran-backed Hezbollah.

Hook played down differences between the United States and Europe over Iran.

“We have a period of opportunity to work with our allies to try to come up with a new security architecture, a new framework,” he said, adding: “I think people are overstating the disagreements between the U.S. and Europe.”

Trump said the 2015 agreement did not adequately curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions or address Iran’s ballistic missile programme and what the Trump administration views as its destabilising role in the region.

Under the agreement Tehran agreed to limits on its nuclear programme in exchange for the lifting of sanctions against it. Iran has denied it sought in the past to develop an atomic weapon, saying its nuclear programme has always been for purely peaceful purposes.

Hook said the Iran nuclear accord had given countries a false sense of security and the United States wanted to ensure any new agreement covered not only Iran’s nuclear and missile capabilities, but also curbed its regional activities.

“This involves a range of things around its nuclear programme, missiles, proliferating missiles and missile technology and support for terrorists and its aggressive and violent activities that fuel civil wars in Syria and Yemen,” said Hook.

In recent days, U.S. officials have highlighted protests in Iran to illustrate economic discontent among Iranians and a reason Iran should return to talks.

At least one person was killed and six others wounded in the southern city of Kazeroon, according to the semi-official Fars news agency on Thursday. Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani has assured Iranians that their oil-reliant economy can withstand new sanctions.

“You have seen the protests in Iran and people have publicly expressed their dissatisfaction with a lot of the policies of the regime, which have not helped the Iranian people,” said Hook. Later, as he met his Dutch counterpart at the State Department, Pompeo also tweeted about the protests.

Additional reporting by John Irish in Paris; Editing by Yara Bayoumy, Frances Kerry and James Dalgleish

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