German Chancellor Angela Merkel drew applause Saturday for her spirited defense of a multilateral approach to global affairs and support for Europe's decision to stand by a nuclear deal with Iran.
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence was not among the impressed.
Merkel's comments at the Munich Security Conference, an annual gathering of world leaders and top global defense and foreign policy officials, followed days of acrimony between the U.S. and Europe over Iran. She told the group — which included the largest U.S. delegation ever with dozens of members of Congress, Pence and others — that she shared American concerns about many Iranian efforts to increase its power in the region.
While she said the split with the U.S. over Iran's nuclear agreement "depresses me very much," she defended it as an important channel to Tehran, stressing the need for international diplomacy.
"I see the ballistic missile program, I see Iran in Yemen and above all I see Iran in Syria," she said. "The only question that stands between us on this issue is, do we help our common cause, our common aim of containing the damaging or difficult development of Iran, by withdrawing from the one remaining agreement? Or do we help it more by keeping the small anchor we have in order maybe to exert pressure in other areas?"
Germany, Britain, France, China, Russia and the European Union have been trying to keep the 2015 deal with Iran alive since President Donald Trump unilaterally pulled out of it last year.
The deal offers Iran sanctions relief for limiting its nuclear program. The U.S. argues that the deal just puts off when Iran might be able to build a nuclear bomb.
"The time has come for our European partners to stop undermining U.S. sanctions against this murderous revolutionary regime," Pence said. "The time has come for our European partners to stand with us and with the Iranian people, our allies and friends in the region."
Turning to nuclear disarmament, Merkel said the recent U.S. announcement that it was pulling out of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty was "inevitable" because of Russian violations. The U.S. administration was also worried that the pact was an obstacle to efforts to counter intermediate-range missiles deployed by China, which is not covered by the treaty.
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