January 11, 2019 / 11:41 AM / 10 days ago

U.S. to host Iran-focused global meeting in Poland February 13-14

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States plans to jointly host a global conference focused on the Middle East, particularly Iran, next month in Poland, the U.S. State Department said on Friday.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is greeted by Bahraini Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa after arriving at Manama International Airport in Manama, Bahrain, Jan. 11, 2019. Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/Pool via REUTERS

The meeting will take place in Warsaw on Feb. 13-14, it said in a statement.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif dismissed the planned event as a “desperate anti-Iran circus.”

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Fox News in an interview to air on Friday that the meeting would “focus on Middle East stability and peace and freedom and security here in this region, and that includes an important element of making sure that Iran is not a destabilising influence.”

Pompeo, who is on an eight-day visit to the Middle East, said the meeting would “bring together dozens of countries from all around the world, from Asia, from Africa, from Western Hemisphere countries, Europe too, the Middle East of course.”

Pompeo has said during the tour that the United States is “redoubling” its efforts to put pressure on Iran and sought to convince allies that it is committed to fighting Islamic State despite President Donald Trump’s decision to pull U.S. troops out of Syria.

Trump last year withdrew the United States from the 2015 Iran nuclear accord and moved to reimpose sanctions on Tehran. Other partners in the deal - including Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China - have sought to keep the agreement from unravelling, although in a shift earlier this week, the European Union moved to impose some sanctions on Iran.

Polish Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz said in a statement that while his country supported the EU’s efforts to maintain the nuclear deal, the agreement “does not stop Iran from activities destabilising the region” and he hoped the conference would bring closer the EU and U.S. positions.

He said more than 70 countries were invited to the conference, including all EU members.

Writing on Twitter, Iran’s Zarif said, “Reminder to host/participants of anti-Iran conference: those who attended last U.S. anti-Iran show are either dead, disgraced, or marginalised. And Iran is stronger than ever.”

He went on to write that “while Iran saved Poles in WWII, it now hosts desperate anti-Iran circus.”

The U.S. State Department said there were strong shared interests in Middle East stability.

“The ministerial will address a range of critical issues including terrorism and extremism, missile development and proliferation, maritime trade and security, and threats posed by proxy groups across the region,” its statement said.

On his Middle East tour, Pompeo is trying to shore up support in the region on a number of fronts, from the U.S. troop withdrawal from Syria to the rift between Saudi Arabia and Qatar to the killing of U.S.-based Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Reporting by Susan Heavey and David Brunnstrom in Washington, Lesley Wroughton in Cairo and Marcin Goclowski in Warsaw; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and James Dalgleish

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