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Pence calls on European allies to withdraw from Iran nuclear deal

Mike Pence speaking at a church in Arizona. (Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence has called on Washington’s European allies to withdraw from the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, saying that Iran is the “greatest threat to peace and security” in the Middle East.

Pence told an international conference on the Middle East that is being held in Warsaw that “some” of Washington’s “leading European partners” have not been cooperative when it comes to confronting Iran.

“In fact, they have led the effort to create mechanisms to break up our sanctions,” Pence said at the February 14 gathering.

Washington and the European Union are at odds over U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the nuclear agreement between Iran and world powers, which calls for Iran to curtail its nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions.

EU states have sought to keep aspects of the deal in place.

France, Britain, and Germany two weeks ago launched a new mechanism to trade with Iran while bypassing U.S. sanctions against Iran.

“It is an ill-advised step that will only strengthen Iran, weaken the EU, and create still more distance between Europe and the United States,” Pence told the Warsaw gathering.

Tehran has described the 60-country meeting sponsored by the United States and Poland as an anti-Iran “circus.”

Speaking at the conference’s opening session, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the United States wants a “new era of cooperation” to confront the challenges faced by countries in the Middle East.

“We want to bring together countries with an interest in stability to share their different views and break out of traditional thinking,” Pompeo said.

“None of the region’s challenges will solve themselves,” the U.S. top diplomat also said. “We must work together for security.”

Citing a list of regional challenges ranging from Iran, Syria, and Yemen to the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians, Pompeo said, “No one country will dominate the discussion today nor will any one issue dominate our talks.”

Earlier in the day, Pompeo said the world “can’t achieve peace and security in the Middle East without confronting Iran.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is addressing the Warsaw meeting, told reporters that the event’s opening dinner late on February 13 marked “a historical turning point.”

“In a room of some 60 foreign ministers representative of dozens of governments, an Israeli prime minister, and the foreign ministers of the leading Arab countries stood together and spoke with unusual force, clarity, and unity against the common threat of the Iranian regime,” he said.

However, many European countries sent only low-level officials, and European Union foreign-policy chief Federica Mogherini is staying away.

Russia and China are also not participating in the Warsaw conference and neither are the Palestinians.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is scheduled to hold a simultaneous summit in the resort of Sochi with Iranian President Hassan Rohani and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to discuss the future of war-ravaged Syria.

At the Sochi summit, Putin on February 14 praised the Iranian president and thanked him for what he called “the contribution Iran has been making in resolving the Syria issue.”

Putin also said there has been progress between Moscow and Tehran to improve trade relations.

Moscow views with concern “U.S. attempts to impose unilateral geopolitical interests through initiatives presented as opinions of the entire international community,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in comments carried by the Interfax news agency.

British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, the only senior official from a key European power to attend the Warsaw conference, said he wanted to focus on ending the conflict in Yemen.

A Saudi-led coalition is fighting against Yemen’s Iran-backed Shi’ite Huthi rebels in an attempt to restore the internationally recognized government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansur Hadi.