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Saturday 20 October 2018

Pompeo calls for action on Iran in Saudi Arabia visit

Senior US officials travelling with Mr Pompeo blamed Iran for smuggling missiles into Yemen.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is greeted by Saudi King Salman in Riyadh (Saudi Press Agency via AP)
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is greeted by Saudi King Salman in Riyadh (Saudi Press Agency via AP)

By Matthew Lee, Associated Press

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is using the Middle East leg of his first trip abroad as America’s top diplomat to call for concerted international action to punish Iran for its missile programmes.

He also urged Saudi Arabia and its neighbours to resolve a dispute with Qatar that US officials say Iran is exploiting to boost its influence in the region, including in Yemen and Syria.

Mr Pompeo met Saudi King Salman, whose country – along with Bahrain, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates – is embroiled in a row with Qatar that had affected Gulf Arab unity and frustrated the US as it seeks to blunt growing Iranian assertiveness.

The ex-CIA chief had arrived in Riyadh a day earlier, shortly after Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen fired missiles at Saudi Arabia’s southern city of Jizan, killing one person and underscoring what US officials said is a growing threat emanating from Iran.

Senior US officials travelling with Mr Pompeo blamed Iran for smuggling the missiles into Yemen.

They said the incident highlighted the importance of the Trump administration’s push to counter Iran in the region. Iran has also provided crucial support to Syrian President Bashar Assad.

“Iran destabilises this entire region,” Mr Pompeo said in brief remarks to journalists with Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir, taking no questions.

While not mentioning Qatar by name, Mr Pompeo also stressed that Gulf unity was “essential”.

Mr Al-Jubeir said the kingdom “supports the policy of the Trump administration against Iran and to improve the terms of the nuclear agreement with Iran”.

Mediation efforts on the Qatar issue led by Kuwait and supported by the US, including former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson – who Trump fired last month, have proven unsuccessful.

The split gives Iran “room to play” and hampers co-operation on a wide array of other issues, including combating violent extremism from the Islamic State and other groups, officials said.

Press Association

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