Pompeo pressures Australia to help confront Iran



SYDNEY, Frank Walker (dpa)– US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued a formal request for Australia to help confront Iran over maritime security during talks in Sydney on Sunday, but Canberra would only say it was giving it “serious consideration."
“We hope Australia will partner with us on some of the most pressing foreign policy challenges of our time like efforts to stabilize Syria, keeping Afghanistan free of terror and confronting the Islamic Republic of Iran’s unprovoked attacks on international shipping in the Strait of Hormuz,” Pompeo told reporters.



Australia’s Defence Minister Linda Reynolds said any decision on Iran would be based on Australia’s sovereign interests, and no decision had been made.
“The request that the US has made is a very serious one and that’s why we are currently giving this request very serious consideration. No decision has been made,” she told reporters.
Tensions between the US and Iran over the US' unilateral withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal and the reimposition of sanctions on Tehran have escalated in recent months, with the US last week sanctioning Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.
The row has spread to the Strait of Hormuz, a key shipping route, where Iran last month seized a British-flagged tanker in apparent retaliation after Britain seized an Iranian tanker off Gibraltar over suspicions it violated EU sanctions.
In Sydney on Sunday both sides also expressed concerns about China’s growing military involvement in the South China Sea, where several countries have competing claims, but Australia expressed caution in ramping up confrontations.
US Defense Secretary Mark Esper also said the US would be consulting its allies in Europe and Asia-Pacific about the deployment of new conventional weapons since the breakdown of a nuclear treaty with Russia.
While avoiding answering whether Australia would host such weapons, Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne said China was a vital partner for Australia.
“We are strongly committed to our comprehensive strategic partnership [with China] which continues to grow. We each have our areas of difference with China ... it is how you deal with those differences that is very important," Payne said.
“It is in no one’s interest for the Indo-Pacific to become more competitive or more adversarial.”
The issue of Australia joining a US-led security operation to confront Iran and increased US weapons based in the Asia-Pacific region is likely to be the focus of talks when Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison attends a state dinner at the White House with President Donald Trump on September 20.
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Sunday, August 4th 2019
Frank Walker (dpa)
           


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