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Pompeo begins Middle East tour by calling for new sanctions on Iran

UNITED STATES (OBSERVATORY) –¬†US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrived in Riyadh on Saturday on his first hastily arranged Middle East tour as the United States sought to rally support for new sanctions against Iran, Reuters reports.

Pompio’s visit to Riyadh, Jerusalem and Amman comes just two days after he was sworn in as US President Donald Trump prepares to decide on a withdrawal from a nuclear deal signed with Iran in 2015 that is still supported by European powers.

“We urge the nations of the world to punish any individuals or entities associated with Iran’s missile program,” said Brian Hawk, a senior political advisor who accompanies Pompeo to reporters in Riyadh. “It’s also a big part of the discussions with the Europeans.”

Hawk said the ballistic missiles launched by the Houthi movement allied with Iran in Yemen to Saudi Arabia and resulted in the death of a man on Saturday provided by Tehran.

“Iranian missiles prolong war and suffering in the Middle East, threaten our security and our economic interests, and particularly threaten Saudi Arabia and Israel.”

The 2015 agreement limits Iran’s nuclear program to a quarter of the sanctions and does not include its missile program.

Trump described the nuclear deal as “the worst agreement ever” and threatened to re-impose sanctions on Iran unless the European allies agreed Britain, France and Germany to amend the deal. The resumption of sanctions is likely to undermine the agreement.

Russia, China, Germany, Britain and France, which have signed the deal with Iran and the United States, see it as the best way to prevent Tehran from developing a nuclear bomb.

In remarks after NATO foreign ministers meeting in Brussels on Friday, Pompeo said Trump had not yet decided whether or not to abandon the deal but was unlikely to stick to it without substantive changes.

“No decision has been made, so the team is working and I am confident that many of the talks will be held to convey what the president has made clear,” Pompeo told a news conference.

Last week, French President Emmanuel Macaron called on the United States not to withdraw from the agreement but later admitted that he believed Trump would withdraw from him in the face of his strong opposition.

The Trump administration is also reviewing the role of the United States in fighting the organization of the Islamic state within the conflict in Syria seven years ago. Trump also called on the Gulf states to provide funding and troops to stabilize the areas controlled by the organization in Syria.

Pompeo was one of the first Trump executives to visit Saudi Arabia at the start of his career as director of the CIA.

In Riyadh, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir was received by Pompeo, who is expected to meet Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Saudi King Salman bin Abdul Aziz during his visit.