Vice President Mike Pence has accused Britain, France and Germany of trying to “break” US sanctions against Iran.
In an unusually blunt speech to a Middle East conference in Poland, Mr Pence called on European nations to join the US in withdrawing from the landmark 2015 Iranian nuclear deal.
He criticised the three countries and the European Union as a whole for remaining parties to the agreement after the Trump administration withdrew from it last year and reimposed tough sanctions on Iran.
The criticism threatened to further chill US-European ties which have already been badly strained, including over the Iran focus of the Warsaw conference co-hosted by the US and Poland.
France and Germany declined to send their top diplomats to the foreign minister-level meeting and EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini also stayed away.
Mr Pence was especially critical of Britain, France and Germany for unveiling last month a new financial mechanism that US officials believe is intended to keep the nuclear deal alive by evading American sanctions.
He praised other nations for complying with the sanctions by reducing Iranian oil imports but said the Europeans fell short.
“Sadly, some of our leading European partners have not been nearly as cooperative,” Mr Pence said. “In fact, they have led the effort to create mechanisms to break up our sanctions.”
He said the mechanism, known as the “special purpose vehicle”, is “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.”
Mr Pence then called for Europe to abandon the nuclear agreement.
“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,” he said.
Earlier, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called Iran the top security threat to the Middle East, and said confronting the country is key to reaching peace in the entire region.
Mr Pompeo, who met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu before the opening session of the conference, said “pushing back” against Iran was central to dealing with all the region’s other problems.
“You can’t achieve peace and stability in the Middle East without confronting Iran. It’s just not possible,” Mr Pompeo said.
The US and Poland say the conference is aimed at promoting peace and security in the Middle East and discussing issues such as Syria, Yemen, the fight against the Islamic State, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, cyber crime and terrorism.
The conference was attended by representatives from numerous Arab countries but notable absences include Russia, China and the Palestinians, who have called for the meeting to be boycotted.
Iran has denounced the gathering as an American anti-Iran “circus” aimed at “demonising” it.
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