Britain warns of Iran-US conflict

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US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo poses with Britain's Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt at the European Council in Brussels, Belgium, Monday. — Reuters

BRUSSELS — Iran and the United States could trigger a conflict by accident, Britain's foreign minister said on Monday, as US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo held talks in Brussels with the main European powers on the crisis.

President Donald Trump is seeking to isolate Tehran by cutting off its oil exports after pulling out of a 2015 deal aimed at curbing Iran's nuclear program. Trump has also beefed up the US military presence in the Gulf to pressure Iran.

"We are very worried about a conflict, about the risk of a conflict ... of an escalation that is unintended," Britain's Jeremy Hunt told reporters in Brussels.

Britain, Germany and France are signatories to the 2015 deal and their foreign ministers were holding separate meetings in Brussels on Monday with Pompeo, who cancelled a planned stopover in Moscow in order to brief the European allies on Washington's latest moves.

The US State Department billed Monday's talks in Brussels as a chance "to discuss recent threatening actions and statements" by Iran.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said he had told Pompeo during their Monday meeting: "We do not want it to come to a military conflict (between the United States and Iran)."

Hunt, who held talks with Maas and Le Drian on the margins of a regular EU meeting in Brussels, expressed concern about the risks of a nuclear arms race in the Middle East if Iran were to acquire such weapons.

"We need to make sure that we don't end up putting Iran back on the path to re-nuclearization," Hunt said, calling for "a period of calm so that everyone understands what the other side is thinking". — Reuters


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