Pence criticizes US’ allies at Warsaw summit on Iran

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Warsaw, Feb 14 (IANS) US Vice President Mike Pence has rebuked Washington’s European allies over their efforts to shield their businesses from American sanctions on Iran.

Pence’s comments came on Wednesday during a conference on the Middle East organised by the US in the Polish capital. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Trump’s son-in-law and special aide on the Middle East Jared Kushner were also in attendance.

The Warsaw meeting was attended by leaders of over 60 nations, including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. But major European powers like Germany and France, party to the landmark 2015 nuclear accord with Iran, refused to send their top diplomats over fears that the summit was designed largely to build an alliance against Tehran.

Iran, Palestine, Turkey, Lebanon and Russia were also not present at the conference.

“A scheme set up by the EU (European Union) to facilitate trade with Iran was an effort to break American sanctions against Iran’s murderous revolutionary regime,” Pence said during the event.

“It is an ill-advised step that will only strengthen Iran, weaken the EU and create still more distance between Europe and the US,” he was quoted as saying by the Guardian on Thursday.

Washington’s sanctions on Tehran were eased by the Obama administration but were re-imposed after Donald Trump withdrew from the agreement last year.

The US’ move came despite the fact that independent monitoring agencies and the remaining signatories, which included China, Russia, the UK, Germany and France, insisted that Iran had upheld its side of the bargain, de-escalating its nuclear programme in exchange for the partial lifting of economic embargoes.

Pompeo on Thursday said that it was impossible to achieve peace and stability in the Middle East without confronting Iran. “There are malign influences in Lebanon, Yemen, Syria and Iraq,” he added, referring to Iran-supported groups. “The three Hs: the Houthis, Hamas and Hezbollah – these are real threats.

“But you can’t get peace in the Middle East without pushing back against Iran,” he told the press alongside the Israeli Prime Minister on the second day of the summit.

Pompeo also thanked NATO and the European Union for joining the summit. He also hailed as “historic” a dinner that took place on Wednesday evening. “Arab and Israeli leaders were in the same room, sharing a meal and exchanging views,” he said.

“They all came together for a single reason, to discuss the real threats to our prospective peoples emanating from the Middle East,” said Pompeo.

He said action was needed on Syria, Yemen, proliferation, the peace process, terrorism, Iran, cyber security and humanitarian crises.

Netanyahu earlier thanked Pompeo, Pence and President Donald Trump’s administration for “putting together an extraordinary conference”.

–IANS

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