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Persian Gulf Tensions Will Play Out On Sidelines Of U.N. Meeting

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Of course, another major issue at the U.N. meeting is Iran. Yesterday on this program, we heard Iran's foreign minister deny his country had anything to do with an attack on oil facilities in Saudi Arabia. The Saudis say differently, the United States says differently, and now Britain, France and Germany have joined those nations in blaming Iran. But there's still a lot of debate about what to do. Here's NPR's Michele Kelemen.

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: The Trump administration has been making the case all along that Iran is a bad actor in the region and needs to be pressured and deterred. U.S. envoy Brian Hook says the world needs to respond to the latest attack on Saudi oil facilities.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING

BRIAN HOOK: We think these attacks that Iran has committed is helping to make the case that we've been making for some time that we are accumulating risk of a regional conflict if we don't restore deterrence.

KELEMEN: He faced a skeptical audience at the Asia Society in New York. It included some Obama administration officials who negotiated the nuclear deal with Iran. The Trump administration pulled out of that deal and has been ramping up sanctions ever since in what Iran calls economic warfare. Hook calls the sanctions effective, though he also points out that Iran has carried out dozens of attacks in recent months.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

HOOK: It is clear that Iran has crossed the line by this attack on another country's sovereignty, the dozens of attacks on freedom of navigation, which is a core principle - it's a core norm that I think the international community believes should be defended.

KELEMEN: France, the U.K. and Germany say they believe Iran bears responsibility for the attacks in Saudi Arabia. There's no other plausible explanation, they write in a statement. All three are signatories of the Iran nuclear deal and still support it even though Iran is not fully in compliance. They're now calling on Iran to negotiate a longer term agreement that addresses regional security concerns. Iran's foreign minister accuses the three of parroting, quote, "absurd U.S. claims." He's blaming the Europeans for failing to uphold their end of the bargain. Michele Kelemen, NPR News, New York. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Michele Kelemen has been with NPR for two decades, starting as NPR's Moscow bureau chief and now covering the State Department and Washington's diplomatic corps. Her reports can be heard on all NPR News programs, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered.

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