15 December 2019
Washington is prepared to negotiate with Tehran with no preconditions, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Sunday. Pool photo via Reuters
Washington is prepared to negotiate with Tehran with no preconditions, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Sunday. Pool photo via Reuters

US prods Iran for talks to ease Gulf tensions

The United States is looking for talks with Iran to help ease tensions in the Persian Gulf region, with President Donald Trump saying he is not seeking war with Tehran.

“I’m not looking for war,” Trump said on NBC’s Meet the Press program on Sunday, Reuters reports.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo repeated to reporters on Sunday that Washington wants talks with Tehran.

“We’re prepared to negotiate with no preconditions,” Pompeo said. “They know precisely how to find us. I am confident that at the very moment they’re ready to truly engage with us we’ll be able to begin these conversations. I’m looking forward to that day.”

Tensions remain high between longtime foes Iran and the United States after Trump said on Friday that he called off a military strike to retaliate for Iran’s downing of an unmanned US drone out of concern it would have been a disproportionate response.

Pompeo also said “significant” sanctions on Iran would be announced on Monday aimed at further choking off resources that Tehran uses to fund its activities in the region.

“We are going to deny them the resources they need to do that, thereby keeping American interests and American people safe all around the world,” Pompeo said before leaving to travel for talks on Iran with US allies Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Iran, meanwhile, played down the impact of any new US sanctions.

They are “just propaganda, as all sanctions … have been imposed and there are no more sanctions left,” state-run news agency IRIB quoted a foreign ministry spokesman as saying.

Last year Trump withdrew the United States from a 2015 accord between Iran and world powers that curbed Tehran’s nuclear program in exchange for easing sanctions. Relations in the region have worsened significantly since then.

Diplomatic efforts are underway to ease tensions following attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf in recent weeks that the US blames on Iran and the shooting down of the American drone last week. 

Iran has said it would respond firmly to any threat and warned on Sunday of the risks of a military confrontation.

“If a conflict breaks out in the region, no country would be able to manage its scope and timing,” Major General Gholamali Rashid said, according to the semi-official Fars news agency.

“The American government must act responsibly to protect the lives of American troops by avoiding misconduct in the region.”

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani accused the Americans of stoking tensions through what Iran has called the violation of its airspace by the US military drone.

Washington said the aircraft was targeted in international air space in “an unprovoked attack”.

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