Europe rejects United States escalation strategy against Iran

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Russia's foreign minister warned the U.S. against trying to impose democracy on Venezuela as Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state, said that the time had come for President Maduro to go.

Russian Foreign Minister Serguei Lavrov has rejected US threats against the Venezuelan government and said it has nothing to do with democracy.

"We fundamentally do not seek a war with Iran", Pompeo said during a visit to Russian Federation, a key backer of Tehran which has blamed the current crisis on Washington's decision to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal.

Just hours before his arrival in Russia, Pompeo tweeted that talks would cover a range of important issues, also stressing the need to find a "way forward" despite the differences between Moscow and Washington.

Britain, Germany and France are signatories to the 2015 deal and their foreign ministers held separate meetings in Brussels on Monday with Pompeo, who cancelled a planned stopover in Moscow in order to brief the European allies on Washington's latest moves.

In a key point of contention, Pompeo has rebuffed demands from North Korea, which has the backing of Russian Federation and China, for an early lifting of sanctions before a final deal. "We said we are open to any contacts and will wait for the specification of the proposal", Ushakov said.

As well as the issue of interference in US elections, the two sides clashed over Venezuela, with Lavrov sharply criticizing Washington for trying to undermine President Nicolas Maduro, who Pompeo said must step down in the face of an economic crisis and large-scale protests against his rule.

Pompeo said that improved ties "will be good not only for our two countries but for the whole world as well".

Lavrov said the Mueller report and "baseless" allegations of Putin-Trump collusion in the 2016 election had "frozen" the relationship.

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Butina, who remains incarcerated in the U.S., faced "arbitrary" charges, Putin has said.

The U.S. has been critical of Russian Federation for propping up Maduro's regime.

Iranian leaders announced last week that they would scale back their cooperation under the agreement, in essence forcing Europe to choose between defying Washington or kissing the nuclear deal goodbye.

"I hope that reason will triumph", Lavrov said, adding that he hoped reports in the U.S. media that President Donald Trump is planning to send 120,000 troops to counter Iran turn out to be wrong.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during the Arctic Council summit at the Lappi Areena in Rovaniemi, Finland May 7, 2019.

Russian Federation and the US also do not see eye to eye when it comes to Syria, where government forces have been leading a major offensive against the last rebel-held province in recent weeks.

"The time has come for Nicolas Maduro to go, he has brought nothing but misery to the Venezuelan people, and we hope that Russian support for Maduro will end", Pompeo said at his joint news conference with Lavrov.

Putin's foreign affairs adviser Yuri Ushakov said later that the Kremlin is prepared to agree to any format for a Putin-Trump meeting.

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