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Britain, Germany Voice Concern Over Iran Tensions As Pompeo Visits Brussels

British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt (file photo)

The foreign ministers of Britain and Germany have expressed concern about a military escalation between the United States and Iran as U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo paid a surprise visit to Brussels.

"We are very worried about the risk of a conflict happening by accident with an escalation that is unintended really on either side," British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said ahead of talks in Brussels, calling for a "period of calm."

Hunt, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, and French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian each held talks with Pompeo on May 13, following a joint session with EU foreign-policy chief Federica Mogherini focused on efforts to keep a landmark 2015 nuclear deal with Iran afloat.

Pompeo canceled a planned trip to Moscow in order to brief the European allies on Washington's latest moves.

The Europeans' warnings came after the United States deployed an aircraft-carrier strike group to the Persian Gulf to counter an unspecified threat that Washington says has been posed by Iran.

"We are concerned about the developments and the tensions in the region," Maas said following talks with Pompeo. "We do not want it to rise to a military escalation," he added.

Before his meeting with Pompeo, Le Drian urged Europeans to remain united in support of the deal.

The meetings in Brussels followed an announcement by Tehran last week that it will scale back some of its commitments under the agreement if world powers do not protect its interests against U.S. sanctions.

Tensions have been escalating between Iran and the United States since Washington withdrew from the deal a year ago and reimposed sanctions against Iran.

European countries said last week they wanted to preserve the nuclear deal with Iran but rejected "ultimatums" from Tehran.

Under the agreement known as 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, Iran accepted curbs to its nuclear program in return for relief from crippling economic sanctions. Besides the United States, Britain, France, and Germany, the other signatories of deal are Russia and China.

European backers of the pact have been trying to salvage the agreement, but Tehran has complained that the process is too slow.

Before the meetings, Mogherini told reporters, "We continue to support it as much as we can with all our instruments and all our political will."

With reporting by dpa, AP, and Reuters