Officials: Pompeo to press allies on Iran after moves on North Korea

WASHINGTON, May 10 (Reuters) - Having returned from North Korea on Thursday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will embark on talks to persuade allies in Europe, the Middle East and Asia to press Iran to return to negotiations over its nuclear and missile programs, U.S. officials said.

The open question is whether the allies, and above all Iran, will agree to resume full-fledged talks, having just seen the United States withdraw from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and renege on its promises under the landmark arms control accord.

The U.S. hope is that Iran will be dragged to the table by the resumption of U.S. sanctions - and possibly the imposition of more - which would penalize European and other companies and likely cripple Iran's oil-driven economy.

A senior State Department official said discussions with Britain, France and Germany, as well as Japan, Iraq and Israel on next steps had already taken place since U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday pulled out of the nuclear pact.

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US President Donald Trump signs a document reinstating sanctions against Iran after announcing the US withdrawal from the Iran Nuclear deal, in the Diplomatic Reception Room at the White House in Washington, DC, on May 8, 2018. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP) (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
U.S. President Donald Trump announces his intention to withdraw from the JCPOA Iran nuclear agreement during a statement in the Diplomatic Room at the White House in Washington, U.S., May 8, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
US President Donald Trump signs a document reinstating sanctions against Iran after announcing the US withdrawal from the Iran Nuclear deal, in the Diplomatic Reception Room at the White House in Washington, DC, on May 8, 2018. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP) (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
U.S. President Donald Trump announces his intention to withdraw from the JCPOA Iran nuclear agreement during a statement in the Diplomatic Room at the White House in Washington, U.S., May 8, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. President Donald Trump reacts to a question from the media after announcing his intention to withdraw from the JCPOA Iran nuclear agreement during a statement in the Diplomatic Room at the White House in Washington, U.S., May 8, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. President Donald Trump announces his intent to withdraw from the JCPOA Iran nuclear agreement in the Diplomatic Room at the White House in Washington, U.S., May 8, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 08: U.S. President Donald Trump holds up a memorandum that re-instates sanctions on Iran after he announced his decision to withdraw the United States from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal in the Diplomatic Room at the White House May 8, 2018 in Washington, DC. After two and a half years of negotiations, Iran agreed in 2015 to end its nuclear program in exchange for Western countries, including the United States, lifting decades of economic sanctions. Since then international inspectors have not found any violations of the terms by Iran. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump announces his decision on the Iran nuclear deal in the Diplomatic Reception Room at the White House in Washington, DC, on May 8, 2018. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP) (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
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"There will be an effort to go out globally and talk to our partners around the world who share our interests. That is the first stage," a senior State Department official said of plans for talks by Pompeo and his chief Iran negotiator, Brian Hook.

"The composition of what happens when we sit down with the Iranians is several stages out," the official said, adding that talks would focus on how to raise pressure on Iran "in a way that is constructive and conducive to bringing them to the negotiating table."

Trump's decision opens the door to greater U.S. confrontation with Tehran and strains relations with America's closest allies, current and former diplomats said.

Washington has given grace periods of 90 days to six months for companies to wind down their trade with Iran. Some allies, like France, will push for exemptions from U.S. sanctions to protect their companies.

Even though companies can seek U.S. Treasury licenses to continue operating in Iran beyond the deadlines, the threat of U.S. sanctions will likely force them out, experts say.

Pompeo returned to the United States overnight after meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and helping to return three Americans who had been detained there. The families of Americans jailed in Iran have also appealed to Pompeo to help secure their release.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, who greeted the Americans upon their arrival from North Korea, said although the Trump administration withdrew from the Iran pact, it is always interested in bringing Americans home.

"Now we're engaging on the possibility of a new deal which may create opportunities for ... addressing issues of Americans that are detained in Iran but checking the extraordinary malign influence and support for terrorism that Iran continues to propagate across the region," Pence told CBS News in an interview that aired on Thursday.

NEW DEAL?

Companies will also have to assess whether they could face revived secondary sanctions, which would target sectors of the Iranian economy including energy, petrochemicals, shipping, financial and banking, experts say.

"The goal is ultimately to reach a point where we sit down with the Iranians and negotiate a new deal, but I don't think we're at that point today, or will be tomorrow," the State Department official said.

"The ultimate goal is to lay the groundwork for getting everyone back to the table and negotiating a new deal."

Several U.S. officials have acknowledged there is no "Plan B" if Washington cannot win the support of allies - and Iran - to negotiate a new, expanded agreement that would end Iran's nuclear program, restrain its ballistic missiles program, and curb its support for groups in Syria, Lebanon, Yemen and Iraq.

"The goal is to prevent Iran from ever developing or acquiring a nuclear weapon and the detail beyond that is something we are going to have to flesh out," the official added.

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., holds a meeting with CIA Director nominee Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan., in his Capitol office on Monday, Dec. 5, 2016.

(Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Mike Pompeo (L) is sworn in as CIA Director by Vice President Mike Pence (R) as wife Susan Pompeo (2nd L) looks on at Eisenhower Executive Office Building January 23, 2017 in Washington, DC. Pompeo was confirmed for the position by the Senate this evening.

(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

UNITED STATES - JUNE 28: Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., right, chairman of the Select Committee on Benghazi, conducts a news conference in the Capitol Visitor Center, June 28, 2016, to announce the Committee's report on the 2012 attacks in Libya that killed four Americans. Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan., also appears. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Representative Mike Pompeo, a Republican from Kansas and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) director nominee for President-elect Donald Trump, swears in to a Senate Intelligence Committee confirmation hearing in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, Jan. 12, 2017. Pompeo is seeking to reassure senators that he can shift from an outspoken policymaker to an objective spy chief if confirmed.

(Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., holds a meeting with CIA Director nominee Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan., in his Capitol office on Monday, Dec. 5, 2016.

(Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Representative Mike Pompeo (R-KS) arrives to testify before a Senate Intelligence hearing on his nomination of to be become director of the CIA at Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 12, 2017.

(REUTERS/Carlos Barria)

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence (R) finishes swearing in Mike Pompeo, flanked by his wife Susan Pompeo, to be director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in the vice president's ceremonial office in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building at the White House in Washington, U.S. January 23, 2017.

(REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)

Mike Pompeo gets a hug from supporter Jennifer O'Connor after arriving at the Sedgwick County Republican headquarters at Market Centre in Wichita, Kansas, on Tuesday, November 6, 2012.

(Fernando Salazar/Wichita Eagle/MCT via Getty Images)

Adam Schiff (D-CA) left, Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS) center, and moderator Chuck Todd, right, appear on 'Meet the Press' in Washington, D.C., Sunday, Oct. 18, 2015.

(William B. Plowman/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump's nominee for the director of the CIA, Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS) attends his confirmation hearing before the Senate (Select) Intelligence Committee on January 12, 2017 in Washington, DC. Mr. Pompeo is a former Army officer who graduated first in his class from West Point.

(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS) listens as Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) speaks during his confirmation hearing to be the director of the CIA before the Senate (Select) Intelligence Committee on January 12, 2017 in Washington, DC. Mr. Pompeo is a former Army officer who graduated first in his class from West Point.

(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan., speaks during the news conference before a group of House Republican freshmen walked to the Senate to deliver a letter to Majority Leader Harry Reid on Wednesday, March 30, 2011. The letter called on the Senate to pass a long term continuing resolution with spending cuts.

(Photo By Bill Clark/Roll Call)

US Congressman Mike Pompeo (C), R-Kansas, sits in the dark after a power failure with US Senator Pat Roberts (L), a former Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and former US Senator Bob Dole (R), R-Kansas, as he prepares to testify before the Senate (Select) Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, January 12, 2017, on his nomination to be director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in the Trump administration.

(JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)

Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan., center, nominee for director of the Central Intelligence Agency, is introduced by former Sen. Bob Dole, R-Kan., right, and Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., during Pompeo's Senate Select Intelligence Committee confirmation hearing in Dirksen Building, January 12, 2017. The hearing was moved from Hart Building due to a peer outage.

(Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Incoming Trump administration cabinet secretary nominees including Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson (L-R), Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Director nominee Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary nominee James Mattis arrive for meetings at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building at the White House in Washington, U.S. January 13, 2017.

(REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)

Mike Pompeo (2nd L), flanked by his wife Susan Pompeo (2nd R) and their son Nick Pompeo (R), signs his affidavit of appointment after being sworn in as director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) by U.S. Vice President Mike Pence (L) in Pence's ceremonial office in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building at the White House in Washington, U.S. January 23, 2017.

(REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)

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Andrew Peek, deputy U.S. assistant secretary for the bureau of Near Eastern Affairs at the State Department, denied the pressure campaign aimed to force regime change in Iran.

"No, we are trying to change the regime's behavior," he told reporters on a conference call, adding that Washington would use diplomacy to convince allies to follow the U.S. sanctions lead.

Peek acknowledged there are some "diplomatically tactical disagreements" with Europeans but said those differences could be overcome. "This is something where we cajole, we urge, we prod, which have proven effective," he added.

While the parties were unable to agree on a supplemental pact to the 2015 nuclear deal, the senior official said a new round of talks would "pick up all of the work" done so far. (Reporting by Lesley Wroughton Additional reporting by Doina Chiacu Editing by Robert Birsel)

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