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Pompeo to visit Brussels as Europe meets on Iran

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US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will visit Brussels on Monday to discuss "pressing matters" including the Iran nuclear deal, as the European signatories to the accord meet for talks on how to prevent its collapse.

The EU reiterated its determination to save the 2015 agreement to curb Tehran's nuclear ambitions in return for sanctions relief, as tensions between the US and Iran rack up.

Iran last week announced it was suspending some of its commitments under the agreement, a year after US President Donald Trump withdrew from the accord and imposed swingeing sanctions on the Islamic republic -- putting the deal in grave peril.

Adding a military dimension to the diplomatic tensions, Washington is sending an amphibious assault ship and a Patriot missile battery to the Gulf, having already deployed an aircraft carrier and B-52 bombers.

The European Union's diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini stressed the need for dialogue as "the only and the best way to address differences and avoid escalation" in the region, as she arrived for a scheduled meeting of the bloc's foreign ministers.

"We continue to fully support the nuclear deal with Iran, its full implementation," Mogherini said.

"It has been and continues to be for us a key element of the non-proliferation architecture both globally and in the region."

Alongside the meeting of all 28 foreign ministers, the representatives of Britain, France and Germany -- the three European signatories -- will meet Mogherini to discuss how to keep the deal going.

"We in Europe agree that this agreement is necessary for our security. No-one wants Iran to come into possession of a nuclear bomb," German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said as he arrived.

"That is why we will continue to support the implementation of this agreement."

Few details of Pompeo's agenda in Brussels have been announced, beyond the State Department saying talks would be held with officials from France, the UK and Germany.

Mogherini gave a chilly response to news of Pompeo's visit, which she said was only communicated to Brussels at the last minute.

"We'll be here all day with a busy agenda so we'll see during the day how and if we manage to arrange a meeting," she told reporters.

President Hassan Rouhani issued an ultimatum to the Europeans last week, threatening that Iran would go further if they fail to deliver sanctions relief to counterbalance Trump's renewed assault on the Iranian economy within 60 days.

The European powers rejected that ultimatum.

The US has continued to build pressure on Iran, with Pompeo accusing Tehran of planning "imminent" attacks and bolstering the military presence in the Gulf.

Pompeo's visit to Brussels means he is scrapping a stop expected on Monday in Moscow.

But he will still head to the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi on Tuesday to meet President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, a State Department official added just before Pompeo left Washington.

In recent days, Pompeo has already cancelled trips to Berlin and to Greenland to focus on the Iran issue.


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