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In op-ed, Pompeo urges France to stand against Iran, Hezbollah

The US and European nations are at loggerheads over sanctions on Iran [Getty]

Date of publication: 15 September, 2020

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In an op-ed published by French daily Le Figaro, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo criticised France's stances regarding Iran and Hezbollah.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has urged France to take a tougher stance on Iran and Lebanese militant group Hezbollah in a Monday op-ed published by French daily Le Figaro.

Pompeo's piece comes amid tensions between the US and its European allies over Washington's bid to maintain an arms embargo on Iran and reimpose UN sanctions.

Last month, the UN Security Council overwhelmingly rejected a US resolution to extend an Iranian arms embargo, an outcome Pompeo condemned.

"[W]hy didn't our European friends support the reasonable proposal that was offered, or at least offer an alternative? Why did they affirm the dangers of the embargo expiring to me in private, but take no action publicly?" he wrote.

"How could France vote down the arms embargo one week, and President Macron meet with a senior [Hezbollah] official in Beirut the next?" Pompeo added.

The meeting between French President Emmanuel Macron and a Hezbollah lawmaker took place during Macron's visit to Beirut last month in the aftermath of the devastating blast that tore through Lebanon's capital.

Macron reportedly told the official to "prove you're Lebanese" due to the movement's links with Iran.

The arms embargo is due to expire on October 18, a conclusion Pompeo called a "terrible mistake" that will allow "the world’s foremost state sponsor of terror" to "supply arms to terrorists and tyrants".

Pompeo also took aim at France's refusal to designate Hezbollah as a terrorist organisation, saying Paris has "restrained EU progress on that same action".

"Paris maintains the fiction that there is a 'political wing' of [Hezbollah], when all of it is controlled by a single terrorist, Hassan Nasrallah," Pompeo wrote.

In his op-ed, Pompeo criticised the landmark international nuclear deal formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which France is party to and the US pulled out of in 2018.

Under the deal, which was negotiated in 2015 by then US president Barack Obama, Iran committed to curtailing its nuclear activities for sanctions relief and other benefits.

After Trump pulled out of the agreement and slapped unilateral sanctions on Iran under a campaign of "maximum pressure", Tehran has taken small but escalating steps away from compliance with the nuclear accord as it presses for sanctions relief.

"With the JCPOA in place, Iran’s military budget skyrocketed, and Iranian-backed militias and terrorists had more money to kill and entrench themselves across the Middle East," he wrote.

"Iran has built up the largest ballistic missile force in the Middle East, and it has violated multiple nuclear-related provisions of the agreement."

The US and European nations are at loggerheads after Washington last month began the process of activating a controversial mechanism aimed at restoring UN sanctions against Iran.

Britain, France and Germany rejected the move, saying it frustrated their efforts to salvage the 2015 nuclear accord.

Washington controversially maintains it has the right to force the reimposition of sanctions through the agreement's "snapback" mechanism, despite its withdrawal.

The latest round of the sanctions dispute between Washington and Tehran has been unfolding at the International Court of Justice in The Hague this week.

They will argue over the coming week about whether the court, set up after World War II to deal with disputes between UN member states, actually has jurisdiction in the case.

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