BRUSSELS (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called on American allies on Thursday to help impose economic pressure on Iran, and accused Tehran of continuing to sell weapons in the Middle East despite United Nations resolutions.
“We must cut off all funding the regime uses to fund terrorism & proxy wars,” Pompeo said in a Twitter post ahead of a scheduled meeting with the European Union’s foreign affairs and security policy representative, Federica Mogherini, in Brussels.
In May, the United States pulled out of a multinational deal that lifted many sanctions against Iran in return for curbs to its nuclear program. Washington has since told countries they must halt all imports of Iranian oil from Nov. 4 or face U.S. financial measures, with no exemptions.
Since President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the agreement, European states have been scrambling to ensure Iran gets enough economic benefits to persuade it to maintain the nuclear curbs required in the deal.
But so far it has proven difficult to offset the impact of U.S. sanctions, with European firms reluctant to risk far-reaching U.S. financial penalties to do business in Iran.
Pompeo, who has been attending a NATO summit in Brussels flew in from Abu Dhabi, where he discussed Iran with leaders of the United Arab Emirates.
Earlier on Thursday, Trump was asked at a NATO news conference about rising tensions with Iran and replied:
“I would say there might be an escalation between us and the Iranians.” However, Iran was now “treating us with much more respect right now, than they did in the past,” Trump added.
“I know they’re having a lot of problems and their economy is collapsing, but I will tell you this - at a certain point they’re going to call me and they’re going to say let’s make a deal. And we’ll make a deal. But they’re feeling a lot of pain right now,” Trump said.
Senior State Department officials have also completed three days of talks on Iran in Saudi Arabia, and “discussed new ways to deprive the regime of revenues,” a State Department official told reporters traveling on Pompeo’s plane.
In Saudi Arabia, the officials discussed U.S. oil sanctions to deny Iran revenue, maintaining a well-stocked oil market to guard against volatility and helping partners find alternatives to Iran oil, the official said.
In another tweet, Pompeo said that on Thursday, together with allies from Britain, France, Germany, Saudi Arabia and Jordan “we reaffirmed our support for the Syrian political process and our goals of removing Iran’s influence, defeating #ISIS, deterring chemical weapons use.”
Pompeo said Iran continued to send weapons across the Middle East, “in blatant violation of #UN Security Council resolutions.”
“Iran’s regime wants to start trouble wherever it can. It’s our responsibility to stop it,” he said.
Reporting by David Brunnstrom in Brussels; Additional reporting by Robert-Jan Bartunek and Alissa de Carbonnel in Brussels; Writing by Susan Heavey in Washington; Editing by Mohammad Zargham and Frances Kerry