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Pompeo visits Saudi Arabia as U.S. prods Iran for talks

24 June 2019 - 42   - 0

RIYADH (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo landed in Jeddah on Monday to consult with regional allies amid heightened tensions with Tehran after President Donald Trump called off a military strike to retaliate for Iran’s downing of an unmanned American drone.

The top U.S. diplomat, who will proceed to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), told reporters before departing that Washington wanted talks with Tehran even as it planned to impose “significant” new economic sanctions.

“We’ll be talking with (Saudi Arabia and the UAE) about how to make sure that we are all strategically aligned, and how we can build out a global coalition, a coalition...that understands this challenge,” Pompeo said.

Relations between longtime foes Iran and the United States have deteriorated since Trump withdrew Washington a year ago from the 2015 accord that curbed Tehran’s nuclear program in exchange for easing sanctions.

Tensions have flared following attacks in recent weeks on oil tankers in the Gulf which the United States blames on Iran, the shooting down of the drone last week, and repeated attacks on Saudi airports and oil installations by Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthis.

Tehran has denied involvement in the tanker attacks, which no one has claimed responsibility for.

It is unclear whether Pompeo will raise the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi after a U.N. report last week called for the Saudi crown prince and other senior officials to be investigated given credible evidence against them.

The report by the United Nations special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, Agnes Callamard, called on the United States to open an FBI investigation into the killing of Khashoggi, who had been living in Washington.

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