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Pompeo postpones trip to Ukraine, Belarus, Central Asia amid Iran tensions

Secretary Pompeo delivers remarks at the Foreign Affairs Day celebration, at the Department of State, on May 3, 2019. (State Department photo by Ron Przysucha/ Public Domain)

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

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has postponed his upcoming travels to Ukraine, Belarus, and two Central Asian nations due to rising tensions in Iraq and the Middle East.

The January 1 announcement by the State Department came as U.S. administration officials continued to respond to events in Baghdad, where a mob stormed the U.S. Embassy compound, an attack that appeared to have been led mainly by pro-Iran militias in Iraq.

U.S. defense officials said more troops were being sent to the region in response to the incident, which began December 31 but began to defuse by January 1.

U.S. officials, including President Donald Trump reacted angrily to the attack, accusing Iran of instigating it.

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Pompeo’s visit to Ukraine, scheduled for January 3, would have been the highest level visit to Kyiv amid the ongoing impeachment proceedings in Washington. After Kyiv, he was also scheduled to visit Belarus, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Cyprus.

However, the trip was pushed back “due to the need for the secretary to be in Washington, D.C. to continue monitoring the ongoing situation in Iraq and ensure the safety and security of Americans in the Middle East,” department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement.

“Secretary Pompeo’s trip will be rescheduled in the near future and he looks forward to the visit at that time,” she said.

No U.S. personnel were injured in the attack on the Baghdad embassy, and U.S. officials said they had no plans to evacuate the facility.

However, all consular services have been suspended indefinitely.