Pompeo urges unity on Iran ahead of UN arms embargo vote

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U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo meets with International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Rafael Grossi in Vienna, Friday, Aug. 14, 2020. Pompeo is on a five day visit to central Europe. (Lisi Niesner/Pool Photo via AP)

VIENNA – U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday called for the world to unite around a long-shot American bid to indefinitely extend a United Nations arms embargo on Iran.

As members of the U.N. Security Council voted remotely on a U.S. resolution to prolong the embargo that is widely expected to fail, Pompeo said it was “nuts” to allow Iran to buy and sell weapons at will. Pompeo spoke well before an announcement of the results of the vote, which many diplomats believe will end in an embarrassing defeat for the Trump administration.

“We ask nations to urge the U.N. Security Council to renew the arms embargo on Iran,” Pompeo said in Vienna, where he met with the U.N. nuclear watchdog's head, Rafael Grossi, and with senior Austrian officials. "We can’t allow the world’s biggest state sponsor of terrorism to buy and sell weapons. I mean, that’s just nuts.”

The anticipated defeat of the resolution in New York likely would set the stage for a showdown between world powers over whether all international sanctions lifted under the 2015 Iran nuclear deal can or should be reimposed.

“We’re urging the whole world to join us. This isn’t about the JCPOA,” Pompeo said, using the acronym for the nuclear deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

Whatever the result of the vote, the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency that Grossi heads will continue to play a major role in the future of the nuclear deal, and Pompeo called for all nations to show “support for IAEA Director General Grossi's critical mission to ensure that all countries comply with their international nuclear safeguard requirements.”

“That mission is all the more important given the Islamic Republic of Iran’s failure to address the IAEA’s questions about its nuclear activities,” Pompeo said. “The international community must speak with a single voice: Iran must provide full, transparent and immediate cooperation with the IAEA.”

Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Grossi said Iran had still not granted his agency access to certain sites. “I requested Iran to grant us access,” he said. “This hasn’t happened yet, but we are working, we’re working on that. My objective is to get this access to continue the verification work, which is essential for the international community.”