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U.S. and Iran Could Accidentally Trigger Conflict, U.K. Warns

Britain’s foreign minister has warned that the U.S. and Iran could accidentally trigger a conflict after tensions between the two countries escalated in recent weeks.

Speaking in Brussels ahead of a meeting of European Union foreign ministries, Jeremy Hunt cautioned that a conflict between Washington and Tehran could further destabilize what is an already precarious situation in the Gulf.

“We are very worried about a conflict, about the risk of a conflict…of an escalation that is unintended,” he was quoted as saying by Reuters.

“We need to make sure that we don’t end up putting Iran back on the path to renuclearization.”

He then called for “a period of calm so that everyone understands what the other side is thinking.”

His warning comes less than a week after a significant shift in the dynamic between the U.S. and Iran saw Washington deploy forces in the Gulf.

Last Sunday, National Security Adviser John Bolton announced the USS Abraham Lincoln was making its way toward the Arabian Sea, adding B-52 bombers had also been mobilized in the Gulf.

Bolton cited “troubling and escalatory indications and warnings” from Iran as the motivating factor behind the operation, although he declined to expand on the nature of said warnings.

Alongside the U.S., China, Russia, France and Germany, Britain was one of the signatories of the so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action—more commonly known as the Iran nuclear deal.

Under the deal, which was signed in 2015, Iran pledged to drastically curb its nuclear program. However, President Donald Trump pulled out of the deal last year, in a move strongly opposed by London, Paris and Berlin.

The three governments, however, dismissed “ultimatums” from Iran last week, after Tehran threatened moves that could jeopardize the agreement.

Iran also responded to Washington’s deployment of forces, describing the move as “psychological warfare”.

Hunt’s German counterpart, Heiko Maas, suggested the European Union remained firmly behind the agreement as Iran has so far complied with every requirement.

“We all agree in Europe that this [Iran nuclear] deal is necessary for our security,” he said.

“No one wants Iran to be in possession of a nuclear bomb.”

Maas and Hunt, along with France’s foreign ministry and the European Union’s diplomatic chief, Federica Mogherini, will meet U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday.

The latter, the U.S. State Department said, was due in Brussels “to discuss recent threatening actions and statements.”

Jeremy Hunt, Mike Pompeo Secretary of State Mike Pompeo attends a joint press conference with Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt at Foreign & Commonwealth Office, on May 8 in London. In Brussels on May 13, Hunt cautioned that a conflict between Washington and Tehran could further destabilize what is an already precarious situation in the Gulf. Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images

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