US vice president Mike Pence has rebuked the UK and Washington’s European allies, accusing them of trying to violate sanctions against Iran.
Speaking at the Middle East conference in Poland, the politician delivered an unusually blunt speech and called on Europe to join the US in abandoning the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.
He criticised the UK – along with France, Germany and the EU as a whole – for keeping with the agreement despite Donald Trump withdrawing Washington from it last year and imposing increased sanctions on Tehran.
Mr Pence singled out Britain, France and Germany for unveiling a new financial mechanism last month, which US officials believe keeps the nuclear deal alive by evading US sanctions.
The US vice president hailed other nations for complying with the sanctions by reducing oil imports from Iran but said the Europeans had not done enough.
Mr Pence said: “Sadly, some of our leading European partners have not been nearly as co-operative. In fact, they have led the effort to create mechanisms to break up our sanctions.”
He said the “special purpose vehicle” mechanism presented “an effort to break American sanctions against Iran’s murderous regime”.
“It’s an ill-advised step that that will only strengthen Iran, weaken the EU, and create still more distance between Europe and the United States,” he said.
Mr Pence then called on European nations to abandon the nuclear deal.
He said: “The time has come for our European partners to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal and join with us as we bring the economic and diplomatic pressure necessary to give the Iranian people, the region and the world the peace security and freedom they deserve.”
The comments come after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Iran was the top security threat to the Middle East, adding that confronting Tehran was key to achieving peace in the region.
“You can’t achieve peace and stability in the Middle East without confronting Iran. It’s just not possible,” said Mr Pompeo, who met with Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu before the opening session of the conference.
Washington and Warsaw say the conference is aimed at promoting peace in the region and discussing conflicts in Syria, Yemen, and the fight against Islamic State.
Numerous Arab nations attended the conferences but notable absences include China, Russia and Palestine, which has called for the summit’s boycott.
France and Germany chose not to send diplomats to the summit, along with EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, who stayed away.
Tehran has branded the gathering of nations as an anti-Iran “circus” set on “demonising” the country.