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story.lead_photo.caption U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, left, poses with Britain's Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt at the European Council in Brussels, Monday, May 13, 2019. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has changed the schedule for his latest trip to Europe, substituting a stop in Brussels for one in Moscow to discuss Iran and other issues with European officials. State Department spokesman Morgan Ortagus says Pompeo is still expected to meet Tuesday in Sochi with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. (Francois Lenoir/Pool Photo via AP)

BRUSSELS — Britain warned Monday that conflict might break out "by accident" amid rising tensions between the United States and Iran, as U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo held talks with European Union powers backing the nuclear deal with the Islamic republic.

The warning came as Saudi Arabia said that two of its oil tankers were sabotaged off the coast of the United Arab Emirates in attacks Sunday that caused "significant damage" to the vessels, one of them as it was heading to pick up Saudi oil to take to the U.S.

Washington has warned ships that "Iran or its proxies" could be targeting maritime traffic in the Persian Gulf region and said it was deploying an aircraft carrier and B-52 bombers to the Persian Gulf to counter alleged threats from Tehran.

"We are very worried about the risk of a conflict happening by accident, with an escalation that is unintended really on either side but ends with some kind of conflict," British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt told reporters in Brussels.

"What we need is a period of calm to make sure that everyone understands what the other side is thinking," Hunt said, adding that would share those concerns Monday with European partners and Pompeo.

The U.S. pulled out of the 2015 nuclear accord a year ago, saying it does nothing to stop Iran developing missiles or destabilizing the Middle East. The Europeans insist the agreement was never meant to address those issues but has been effective in curbing Iran's nuclear ambitions.

Tensions mounted last week, when Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said that signatories to the deal now have 60 days to come up with a plan to shield his country from the sanctions imposed by President Donald Trump.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian described the remarks suggesting that Iran might renege on the agreement as "very worrying," given that the EU is still respecting the deal and trying to bolster the country's economy.

Hunt warned of the importance of ensuring that Iran doesn't resume banned atomic activities, saying that "if Iran becomes a nuclear power, its neighbors are likely to want to become nuclear powers. This is already the most unstable region in the world. This would be a massive step in the wrong direction."

The meeting between Hunt, his counterparts from France and Germany, and EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini comes as the Europeans struggle to keep financial supply lines open to Iran to offset the impact of U.S. sanctions on the Islamic republic's shattered economy.

"We in Europe agree that this treaty is necessary for our security," German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said. "Nobody wants Iran to get possession of an atomic bomb, and that's been achieved so far."

As the U.S. sanctions bite, domestic pressure is increasing on Rouhani to demonstrate that Iran can still benefit from an agreement based on providing it with economic opportunities in exchange for limiting nuclear development.

Maas said the Europeans "are working on the assumption that Iran won't withdraw step by step from this treaty, but rather meet all of its commitments."

Even so, the EU cannot keep Iran's economy afloat alone.

The Europeans have set up a complicated barter-type system to skirt direct financial transactions with Iran and so evade possible U.S. sanctions. The workaround, dubbed INSTEX, is not yet operational as Iran has not completed its part of the scheme.

They have also introduced a "blocking statute" protecting European companies from the effects of U.S. sanctions, but many international corporations do more business in the United States than in Iran and have already severed ties there rather than risk running afoul of Washington.

"We have already initiated concrete steps in recent months, especially as concerns the payment channel and INSTEX. Now this instrument needs to be further operationalized and used in order to continue implementing" the nuclear agreement, Maas said.

Read Tuesday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for full details.

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Comments

  • UoABarefootPhdFICYMCA
    May 13, 2019 at 3:06 p.m.

    "by accident"
    HaHa....
    zionist Bolshevik cultural marxist social justice genocidal scum.

  • PopMom
    May 13, 2019 at 3:35 p.m.

    No accident. The Saudis want it. Why shouldn't we do their dirty work for them?

  • MBAIV
    May 13, 2019 at 3:44 p.m.

    Leave it to the EU to figure out a way to help Iran get past the US sanctions. Iran blew through the $$$$$ Obama delivered (yes, it was theirs initially - but there was a reason we had it and should have kept it). It's expensive to send all those missiles and other weapons to the terrorist groups they support. And to fight us on several fronts -- and keep working on their nuclear programs.
    .
    If something gets 'started' it won't be by accident - it'll be because of Iran's quest for "Death to America!"

  • Packman
    May 13, 2019 at 3:54 p.m.

    America warns Britain to stay in it's lane and kiss our freedom loving American a$$e$.

  • Retirednwsman
    May 13, 2019 at 5:22 p.m.

    Trumpy WANTS to start a war with Iran. Gotta keep the Military Industrial Complex in business.

  • BobfromMarion
    May 13, 2019 at 9 p.m.

    @RETIREDNWSMAN
    Ya think?!?
    Let's hope that Saudi Arabia and American hawks don't decide to clear the Mid East from Iran. True Iran isn't the easiest nation for the US to get along. The chances that the US would come out of a major military escalation with Iran at either no change or Iran comes out on top is to great for us to deliberately set up Iran for a war that the US may not win.

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